Front Royal resident Tony Dane, who was who driving a poorly-maintained food truck that crashed into a family vehicle and killed Erin T. Kaplan last September will spend over 11 years behind bars.
In Loudoun County Circuit Court Thursday, Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick imposed the full verdict set by a jury following a two-day trial last March.
The jury issued guilty verdicts on five charges against Dane, 57, and recommended a sentence of 10 years in prison, 18 months in jail and pay $3,500 in fines.
The commonwealth’s sentencing guidelines, however, called for Dane to serve much less time incarcerated—as little as 11 months in jail and as much as 35 months in prison. The guidelines use a formula that considers the severity of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
County prosecutors urged Kendrick to impose the jury’s recommended sentence, saying they took into account the evidence that showed Dane acted with “gross negligence and utter disregard for public safety” when he failed to have his food truck inspected and then continued to drive after the brakes on the converted Thomas bus showed signs of failure just prior to the fatal crash.
Citing his devotion to Christianity and history of volunteer work, Dane and his attorney asked for a lesser sentence, one that would allow him to work and make some amends to the Kaplan family. His attorneys are expected to file an appeal challenging the sentence.
On Sept. 8, 2017, Dane was driving the Dane’s Great American Hamburger food truck from Front Royal to Briar Woods High School to serve food during homecoming events when the accident occurred.
Dane previously testified that during the drive, he noticed the brakes were becoming “spongy,” but decided to continue on to the school. Going downhill on Watson Road, the brakes failed and the food truck sped past a school bus that had stopped to let students exit and ran the stop sign at the Evergreen Mills Road intersection. There, the bus hit a 2014 Audi station wagon traveling northbound on Evergreen Mills Road. Erin Kaplan, 39, the driver of the Audi, died at the scene. Her mother and her three teenage children were airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Dane was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, driving without an operator’s license (repeat offense), driving without insurance, and failure to get a vehicle inspection. The jurors recommended a 10-year prison sentence on the involuntary manslaughter conviction; 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine for reckless driving; six months in jail for being convicted of driving without a license for a second time; and $500 fines for operating a vehicle without insurance and for failure to have a vehicle inspected. See related story here