The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 30, 2008

Driver guilty of manslaughter

Jamie Cowart of Athens receives two 20-year sentences for deadly 2006 wreck in Huntsville

By Kelly Kazek

An Athens man who pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter and first-degree assault in connection with a 2006 wreck in Huntsville had been driving with three prescription drugs in his system, the assistant district attorney said.

Jamie Michael Cowart, 31, was sentenced by Judge Laura Hamilton in Madison County Circuit Court to two 20-year sentences, one for each charge to be served concurrently.

“Certainly we were glad the judge gave the maximum sentence as allowed by law,” said William Starnes, assistant district attorney for Madison County.

During the plea, Cowart admitted he was driving under the influence of prescribed medication April 15, 2006, when his eastbound pickup collided with a motorcycle stopped at a red light on University Drive at Pulaski Pike, Starnes said.

“The truck collided with the motorcycle without braking,” he said. “The truck and motorcycle went though three lanes of the intersection and on through the intersection before it came to rest.”

The passenger on the Suzuki motorcycle, Brandi Raeayn Hawkins, 22, of New Market, was killed in the crash. The driver, William Brandon Newberry, 22, of New Market, was initially paralyzed, he said.

Starnes said doctors thought Newberry would remain paralyzed but he can now walk.

“He’s made a remarkable recovery but he still has physical limitations based on his injuries,” he said. “The loss to both families was tremendous. Each of the families was requesting (maximum sentencing).”

Tests showed Cowart had three prescription drugs in his system at the time of the crash — a muscle relaxant, a central nervous system relaxant and hydrocodone, a narcotic pain-reliever.

A factor in the sentencing, Starnes said, was Cowart’s repeat offense while out of jail on bond.

“He was subsequently arrested two months after that, driving with the same substances in his system,” he said.

Cowart’s bond was revoked and he remained in Madison County Jail.