After being convicted of a 2015 hit-and-run in Verdigris, Oklahoma, that left one teen dead and another critically injured, Gage Shriver posed an alternative punishment to his judge: that, instead of a 25-year prison stretch, he be allowed to do penance by joining the Marines.
“I’m not the type of person that would leave those girls there for dead,” Shriver, 21, said, referring to the women he’d left for dead — mortally wounded 18-year-old Noelle New and grievously injured Maranda Talley — in a pre-sentencing investigation report obtained by the Oklahoma City-based Fox News affiliate KOKI.
Instead, he said in the report, “I ask that you allow me to join the Marine Corps.”
The proposal didn’t fly… at all. Instead, Shriver was handed a first-degree manslaughter conviction, and his brother, Dakota Shriver, 23, was convicted of second-degree murder. The brothers were sentenced to 25 years in prison Dec. 9, according to Tulsa World.
New and Talley, who survived and is now 20, were walking to a convenience store in the early morning hours on June 5, 2015, when they were struck by a pickup truck driven by Gage Shriver. The Shrivers left the scene. The incident had occurred shortly after Gage was punched by his brother, Dakota, during a drunken argument, according to Tulsa World. The paper also reported that Gage Shriver had a “0.023 percent blood alcohol concentration” when he was tested seven hours after the crash — because he was under 21 at the time, the amount met the threshold for drunk driving.
The teens were left on the side of the road for more than two hours before the Shrivers returned to the scene, with their mother, Dorothea Butanda, who called 911. The brothers’ claims that they didn’t see New or Talley until they came back to the scene was a point of contention in the court case, and was part of the reasoning behind the first-degree manslaughter charge for Gage Shriver, and the second-degree murder charge for his brother, who admitted to misleading police. Butanda faces charges as an accessory; officials claim she attempted to conceal her sons’ involvement in the incident and will have her day in court in January 2018, Tulsa World reports.
Gage Shriver’s attempt to skirt prison has its roots in the “go to jail or join the military” myth; a decades-old but now largely defunct practice in which one could opt out of a sentence for some infractions by serving in uniform.
While judges often have the ability to offer alternative sentences such as military service — usually for minor charges — there’s no requirement that the service actually accept the candidate; in some cases, recruiters are strictly barred from doing so, The Balance notes.
That was the case for Michael Guerra from North Tonawanda, New York, who received a conditional sentence in 2006 for aggravated assault; he was given the option of dodging a yearlong prison stint by joining the Army, Stars and Stripes reported. But because Guerra’s criminal case was still open — pending his enlistment in the service — the Army could not accept him, since the service is barred from enlisting individuals who are facing pending charges.
Gage Shriver’s proposal never got that far — neither did his attorney’s request for leniency in the form of split sentences and supervised probation for the brothers, according to Tulsa World.
It’s not surprising that a drunk driver who fled the scene of a fatal crash to allegedly hide evidence of his involvement doesn’t really meet the standards of “the few, the proud.” Nor does it make sense for vehicular slaughterers to reap service benefits like free health care, education, and regular wages.
“So, yeah, I was just kind of shocked and I thought, oh, so you just want a little slap on the wrist,” New’s mother, Brandy Whitmire, said, according to KFOR-TV an Oklahoma City-based NBC News affiliate, before adding that Shriver’s request stemmed from “a lifetime of not being held accountable.”