Ohio surgeon Dr. Joseph Yurich has been sentenced to six months in jail for vehicular homicide and six months in jail for leaving the scene of an accident in the death of Brian Cuppett and the injury of Bruce Lindamood. Yurich was boating on Berlin Reservoir in May 2015 when he struck a boat the two victims occupied. The crash happened at about midnight, testimony revealed.
The doctor may spend very little time behind bars. The judge suspended 170 days and 180 days of the sentences, respectively, meaning the doctor won’t have to serve large chunks of the full six-month sentences. It’s possible he could spend only fifteen days behind bars.
The judge also sentenced Dr. Yurich to five years of community control, 200 hours of community service, and suspended his driver’s license for one year.
Jenny Cuppett, the wife of the victim who died, spoke before sentencing. She slammed the defendant over and over, accusing him of “perjury, deceit, and coward[ice]” and of adding to her family’s pain and bitterness by failing to take responsibility for his actions. She also said Dr. Yurich was an “arrogant man who drinks too much.” (Watch her scathing statement from the sentencing hearing above.)
Cuppett went on to slam the “appalling” judicial system for refusing to admit blood evidence which suggested Dr. Yurich may have been operating his boat with a blood alcohol level of .151 or .152, nearly twice the legal limit. That evidence never made it to trial because the investigating sheriff’s deputies didn’t refrigerate the samples until 62 hours after they were taken. That’s a violation of Ohio administrative regulations. Cuppett further accused the Portage County, Ohio Sheriff’s Department of “incompetence” for failing to properly handle blood samples, resulting in what she called the “breakdown” of this case.
The defense argued that the alcohol in the samples could have fermented while the samples were not refrigerated, thereby questioning the accuracy of the samples. The prosecution argued that the samples were accurate based on science. The judge agreed that the samples were probably accurate, but that the evidence wasn’t admissible because it was not handled in accordance with state law.
Dr. Yurich chose a bench, rather than a jury, trial. The judge acquitted Yurich of the higher-level felonies he faced, largely because the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was either under the influence of alcohol or operating his boat recklessly when the crash occurred.
Yurich’s defense attorney also slammed the way sheriff’s investigators handled the case, stating that a urine sample collected from Dr. Yurich disappeared during the investigation. The defense presented letters from patients and friends who supported Dr. Yurich and who believed he should not receive a harsh sentence.
The defense called Yurich “the type of person we should all wish and aspire to be.”
The judge called the case among the most contentious in his career.