A Clark man convicted of manslaughter in a crash that killed a Harrisburg track coach and injured several players was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison.
Boone County Circuit Court judge Jeff Harris said a prior driving record was a factor in the sentence of of 26-year-old Brandon Brill, who pleaded guilty in July to first-degree involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault in the death of teacher and coach Brian Simpson and injuries to team members.
Brill was originally charged with second-degree murder in the case. Following the state’s recommendation, Harris on Tuesday ordered Brill to serve 15 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and seven years on the assault charge. He also ordered those terms be served consecutively, for a total of 22 years.
Brill and several family members wept during the packed hearing and as the judge announced the sentence. Defense attorney Kevin O’Brien had asked for two six-year sentences to run concurrently and that the execution of those be suspended.
He said his client was extremely remorseful for causing the crash. During Brill’s plea hearing testimony was given that he was not intoxicated during the crash and sleep deprivation likely played a factor, as he has just completed a double shift at work.
“It certainly isn't the sentence we asked for, the sentence we thought was appropriate,” O’Brien said. “I think Mr. Brill is crushed by this. As you heard before this was an extremely hardworking person. It was just an extremely tragic accident and it happens too often.”
O’Brien said he will look to appeal the sentence. A request for comment from the Boone County prosecuting attorney’s office was not immediately returned. Assistant prosecutor Roger Johnson described Brill’s driving history, including multiple convictions for driving without a license.
Brill was sentenced to probation for driving without a license in January 2013. While on probation for that offense he was again arrested for the same thing. His probation was revoked and he was sentenced to two years in prison.
After his release, in March 2016, he was again arrested for driving with a revoked license in Boone County and given a $200 fine. Court information in that case indicates his prior offenses in Audrain County were not considered in that sentence.
Two Harrisburg students on the bus during the crash also testified during the hearing, saying the devastation caused by the wreck has lead to continued nightmares and emotional problems.
Simpsons' parents, Jay and Judith Simpson, testified during sentencing, saying “no family should have to go through what we live with every day.” Judith Simpson read a statement, saying that “driving is a privilege, not a right, a privilege that Brill did not have” in light of Brill’s repeated license convictions.
Simpson and his team were on their way to a Moberly cross-country meet when the crash happened near the intersection of Route F and Everett Carr Road. Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators said the 2006 Dodge truck driven by Brill crossed the center line and struck the school bus transporting the team head-on.
Boone County medical examiners pronounced Simpson, who was driving the bus, dead at the scene. Four students on the bus were injured and taken to University Hospital. Two of them suffered serious injuries and two had minor injuries.
Harrisburg Public Schools canceled school the Friday after the crash and provided grief counseling to students. Superintendent Steve Combs, who was in court for the sentencing, said it has been a difficult time for all involved.
“Kind of another sad chapter of this tragic story,” Combs said. “I feel bad for everyone involved. It’s just a terrible tragedy. I felt like justice was served. I know it was a difficult decision by judge Harris, but it maybe gave a little relief to the family.”