Rene A. Berben (9/3/85), of the Stonybrook apartments, Cooper St., Deptford Township NJ pleaded guilty today (5/21) to second-degree vehicular homicide, third-degree assault by auto and driving under the influence in connection with a two-vehicle crash in Deptford that killed 29-year-old Runnemede resident Steven Kennedy and injured two of Kennedy’s passengers on March 19, 2011.
In a plea agreement, assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Dana Anton will recommend that Berben, who was enlisted in the U.S. Army at the time of the crash but is being discharged, be sentenced to six years in New Jersey state prison and be ineligible for parole for 85 percent of the prison term. Berben would serve a concurrent 365-day sentence for assault. A first-time drunk driver, he would lose his driver’s license for seven months and pay a $300 fine on the DUI conviction.
Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson scheduled a July 13 for Berben, who has been jailed in default of bail since the crash.
In his plea, Berben acknowleged he had consumed “ten or more” drinks at Taylor’s bar in Williamstown NJ and had a blood-alcohol level of .342 before driving his Ford truck northbound on Route 41, where the crash occurred near a K-Mart store. Kennedy was driving a Nissan sedan southbound on the road when Berben’s truck turned left into his car, trapping him in the vehicle. Passengers Elisha Bailey, 52,and Dwayne Pettit, 28, both of Glassboro, sustained non-life threatening injuries, although Bailey’s injuries required subsequent surgery and hospitalization.
“This is another senseless tragedy that could easily have been avoided by not getting behind the wheel or by calling a friend or taxi to come pick you up,” said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton.