Former UA Student Sentenced To One Year In Prison In Deadly Boat Crash
DELAWARE COUNTY, OKLA. (KFSM) – The former University of Arkansas student who drove drunk in a boat crash that killed two classmates last year was sentenced on Tuesday (Dec. 30) to one year in an Oklahoma prison, court records show.
John DeSelms, who pleaded guilty in August to two counts of first-degree manslaughter, will be allowed to stay at his home in Tulsa until a prison bed opens up at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center south of Oklahoma City near Purcell, said Kenny Wright, the district attorney-elect for Delaware and Ottawa counties.
DeSelms will not be required to wear an ankle bracelet while awaiting bed space at Lexington, Wright said. Bed space normally becomes available in two to three weeks, he said, but sometimes isn’t available for a month or more.
The time that DeSelms spends at home awaiting a prison bed will not count toward his one-year sentence. However, DeSelms probably will spend only 11 months in prison because convicts are eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of their term, the prosecutor said.
All convicted felons in Oklahoma are processed through Lexington for evaluation before being sent to other state Department of Corrections facilities, but the judge recommended that DeSelms serve his entire term at Lexington, Wright said.
DeSelms was sentenced in Delaware County District Court before Judge Robert Haney.
In addition to serving a year in prison, DeSelms received a nine-year suspended sentence on the first manslaughter count and a five-year suspended sentence on the second count, records show. He also has been ordered to pay more than $20,000 in fines and court costs.
Also, DeSelms was ordered to pay $17,000 in restitution to Dr. Patrick Lester, a radiologist whose unoccupied 96-foot, $1 million houseboat was damaged in the incident when the ski boat that DeSelms was driving slammed into it, Wright said. The houseboat was insured, but Lester incurred some travel expenses and other costs after the wreck and also suffered the loss of some uninsured property on the boat, the prosecutor said.
Winston Connor, DeSelms’ lawyer, said the former Arkansas student is taking responsibility for his actions.
“This whole thing is a complete tragedy,” he told 5NEWS last summer. “There’s permanent loss on all sides.”
DeSelms remained out of jail on $25,000 bond while awaiting his sentence, according to jail records.
The parents of 21-year-old Rachel Swetnam, who was killed in the boat crash, reached an undisclosed civil settlement with DeSelms in May. They had filed a civil lawsuit against the student seeking more than $10,000 in damages, court records show.
The fatal wreck occurred in May 2013 on Grand Lake in Delaware County, Oklahoma.
Swetnam was killed by accidental blunt force trauma to the head and neck, while William “Trey” Varner III died of accidental blunt force trauma to the head, according the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Delaware County district attorney filed two manslaughter charges against DeSelms in September in connection with the fatal crash after the suspect allegedly admitted to drinking heavily and taking drugs prior to the wreck.
After charges were filed in September concerning the May boat crash, DeSelms was booked into jail in Delaware County and bonded out the next morning. Each manslaughter charge is punishable by imprisonment for four years to life, a fine or up to $10,000 or both.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol released an investigation report about a week after the May 14 deadly boat crash. The report states DeSelms was arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol after the 22-foot-long ski boat he was driving smashed into Lester’s docked, unoccupied houseboat at a marina on Grand Lake in Oklahoma.
While being treated at a nearby hospital, DeSelms told investigators he had consumed about 10 beers, one shot of tequila and an anti-depressant that was not prescribed to him before the crash. He also admitted to using marijuana two days earlier, according to the investigation report.
To view the sentencing order, click here.