By Shereen Siewert
A 41-year-old Wausau woman will avoid prison time but will spend 10 months in jail after she was convicted this week on felony charges connected to a crash that seriously injured a passenger after a night of drinking.
Sara E. Kestly on Thursday pleaded no contest in Marathon County Circuit Court to charges of injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. A charge of refusing to take a test for intoxication after an arrest was dismissed.
She has also been cited for first-offense drunken driving.
Police say Kestly was with a friend for dinner and drinks the night of Oct. 17 and was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Equinox when she drove through the intersection of Hwy. Z and Prahl Creek Road and crashed into a large tree. Emergency crews arrived to discover Kestly unresponsive in the back seat.
A passenger, a 51-year-old woman, was still buckled into the passenger seat of the vehicle when crews arrived, police said. Both women were injured and were transported to a local hospital for treatment.
Court documents show Kestly’s passenger suffered significant injuries including a traumatic brain injury and a broken tailbone. In addition, doctors were forced to remove a portion of her intestine, according to the criminal complaint.
Police say Kestly initially denied driving, but investigators relied in part on receipts and witness statements to make their case including Kestly’s admission that she was drinking and should not have been driving, according to court documents. Charges were filed in November.
During a plea hearing Wednesday Circuit Judge Suzanne O’Neill issued a withheld sentence, ordering Kestly to spend three years on probation, serve 10 months in jail and pay a $1,000 fine. She is ordered not to possess or consume alcohol, enter bars or liquor stores and install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle registered in her name. Her driver’s license is revoked for two years.
In a withheld sentence, the judge places a defendant on probation and no prison sentence is assessed. If Kestly’s probation is revoked, she will still face the same maximum penalty on the charge for which she is convicted.
Court records show Kestly has 45 days to report to jail and is eligible for the electric monitoring program. She has no prior criminal record.