By Ed Brock
A man accused of dropping the dryer from his pickup truck that caused a fatal accident entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide.
Jose Luna Gonzalez of Hapeville entered his plea on Wednesday in Clayton County State Court. He was sentenced to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine for the charge, Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin said.
Gonzalez faced the charge in connection with the death of 43-year-old Michael T. Hall of Atlanta.
Hall was killed on March 8 when he swerved to avoid the dryer in I-75's northbound lanes near Forest Parkway while driving home in his 1996 Isuzu Rodeo from his sons' Little League baseball game in McDonough. The Rodeo rolled over several times in the accident but Hall's two sons, 9-year-old Michael and 6-year-old Marcus, were not badly injured.
Gonzalez has reportedly apologized in the past for the accident and said that he had tried to retrieve the drier by backing up on the side of the interstate but grew too worried about the oncoming traffic. He also claimed not to know about the accident until his arrest a week later.
"We never thought we would make a jail recommendation in the case," Martin said.
Martin said Hall's widow, Sabrina Hall, did not attend the hearing where Gonzalez entered the plea but did send a letter in support of the plea arrangements.
"She had no objections to the sentence received," Martin said.
Sabrina Hall's brother Sam Tucker Jr. said he would have liked to see Gonzalez spend 30 days in jail, but his sister and their mother hold no malice against Gonzalez. His sister accepted the plea because a trial would be too taxing for her sons and her.
"She didn't want to be involved in that," Tucker said. "She wants to wrap this thing up and move on."
Sabrina Hall does still have a civil lawsuit pending against Gonzalez, Home Depot where Gonzalez bought the dryer and Isuzu Motors America, Isuzu Motors Inc. and Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc.
The lawsuit alleges that Home Depot is partly responsible for Michael Hall's death because the company's employees did not help Gonzalez secure the dryer in the bed of his pickup truck. It blames design flaws in the Isuzu Rodeo Hall was driving for contributing to the rollover that caused his death.
Home Depot and Isuzu have entered answers to the lawsuit denying the allegations, as has Gonzalez.