Chad Erdley

Chad Erdley reads a statement in court apologizing for intentionally driving into a crowd of people near a food truck in January 2017. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville man who drunkenly plowed his car into at least nine people standing outside a food truck in January 2017, killing two and injuring several others, asked a judge Tuesday to release him after serving six months of a 20-year-sentence.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin did not make a ruling on whether to release Chad Erdley early on what is called “shock probation,” saying he would issue an order soon.

In a lengthy speech from the bench, Chauvin said it was a tough decision because Erdley is getting alcohol treatment, likely is not a threat to society and is a good candidate for shock probation.

Shock probation is available, generally, for non-violent offenders who, after serving some time incarcerated, can argue they have essentially been "shocked straight" by the prison experience, learned their lesson and should be released. 

“This is one of the closer calls I’ve had in these types of cases,” Chauvin said. “I don’t know what to do here.”

At the same time, Chauvin questioned whether “what happened that night is just too terrible” for Erdley to be released before seeing a parole board. And Chauvin said Erdley would be a likely candidate to get parole. He is up for parole in January 2021.

“This scores high really high on the range of terribleness,” Chauvin said of the crime. “I can’t imagine a reasonable mind thinking probation would be OK when two lives were lost and eight lives were affected forever.”

At one point, Chauvin indicated he may rule to release Erdley if his attorneys would agree to keep him on probation for 20 years, instead of the typical five years.

While the defense agreed to this, Chauvin acknowledged he would have to research whether it was allowed, saying “I’m not even sure it’s something we could do.”

Without that, Chauvin said, he would be “leaning” toward leaving Erdley in prison.

Erdley pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter, wanton endangerment and assault in May. He was sentenced to 20 years. He was initially charged with two counts of murder after police say he drunkenly crashed into a group of people standing outside of a food truck on South Third Street Road in January 2017. 

Jennie Burton and Stacey Walker were killed.

During the hearing, Erdley stood up, turned to the victims and family in the courtroom, asked for forgiveness and “accepted responsibly for this tragic accident,” saying there wasn’t a day that went by that “I am not haunted by this fact.”

He said he has shared his story with hundreds of others and is in a substance abuse program

“I cannot change the past,” he said. “I can, however, hopefully affect the future by helping others not make the same mistakes I made.”

And his defense attorneys, Rog Eggert and Sarah Clay, said Erdley was a good person who committed a terrible crime but had been incarcerated for three years already and was not a violent criminal who should spend decades in prison.

Prosecutors pointed out that dozens of lives were affected by Erdley’s decision: a pregnant woman who suffered multiple injuries; a man who jumped in front of flying debris, shoving his wife out of the way; and two people who were killed.

Prosecutors also said Erdley has had other convictions related to drug abuse and been given probation once before, and that probation was revoked.

Family members of victims also asked Chauvin not to release Erdley.

Samantha Franklin, whose mother Jennie Burton was killed, told the judge that “getting up every day is a struggle.”

“When I look back and see the others that were affected, I couldn’t even imagine how they feel right now,” Franklin said. “We lost a lot that day. The community did too.”

She asked to speak directly to Erdley and told him she appreciated his statements, that she could “hear it in your voice you felt sorry.” 

Franklin is now an active member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She hopes to continue to work to raise awareness to drunk driving moving forward. 

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Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.