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Man wants justice to help him move on with life

POTOSI – Three years ago, Robert Cawley’s life changed drastically when he was struck by a trailer that was being pulled by an ATV.

The woman who was driving that ATV with the attached trailer was sentenced in Washington County Monday to seven years in prison for second-degree assault. The charge alleges Laverne Harris recklessly drove the vehicle which struck him.

Harris, 54, of Mineral Point, broke down in tears as Robert’s wife, Deborah, talked about how the injury has changed their lives.

Robert went through six surgeries in 10 months. After fighting infections and complications, Robert, a diabetic, had to have his leg removed.

“I just pray for the maximum sentence possible even though my husband will suffer and no longer have the quality of life,” Deborah told Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte.

She said her husband is currently in the hospital for related medical problems. She said he can no longer enjoy the things he once did and is unable to do simple tasks around the house.

“All I want is justice so I can start moving on with my life,” Robert said in a letter that his wife read to the judge.

Washington County Prosecuting Attorney John Rupp said he considered the case to be road rage.

“It’s tragic all the way around,” he said.

According to court records, Deborah Cawley approached Harris’ husband and told him that having an ATV at Potosi Lake was a violation of the board rules. When he refused to remove the ATV, she called her husband, who is a member of the board of directors. He also told them it was against the rules to have the ATV there.

A witness told police that Laverne Harris got on the 4-wheeler which was pulling a trailer and told Robert Cawley to move his (expletive) truck or she would move it for him.

The witness said the trailer struck Robert as he was standing by his truck. She said the driver, Laverne Harris, then swerved and hit his truck and kept going.

Robert was knocked to the ground and had an open fracture to his left lower leg.

When police talked to her, she said she did not know at that time that she had struck Robert with the trailer. She said the accident occurred as she was trying to move the 4-wheeler from behind his truck. She said she guessed she didn’t see how close she was to his truck.

During sentencing, Harris said she never meant to hurt him. She said not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of him and his injuries.

“I have never been more sorry in my life,” she said. “If serving 25 years would bring his leg back, I’d gladly do it.”

Her attorney, Randall Head, asked the judge to consider five years of supervised probation even though the presentence investigation report prepared by the Board of Probation and Parole recommended the judge not grant probation.

Head said Harris would be an excellent candidate for probation. He said it would allow her to pay restitution to the victim and his family.

“No amount of time will bring his leg back,” he said.

He said his client is remorseful and has no criminal history.

“She has no criminal history – not even a speeding ticket…” he said. “She has no drug or alcohol problem.

The prosecutor said it was probably a brief moment of temper but that brief moment of temper created havoc for the victim that has forever changed his life.

Rupp said the Cawleys sued Harris two years ago. He said she was ordered to pay a small part of his medical bills but they have not received a dime.

“Sometimes actions speak louder than words,” Rupp said.

Head agreed that no money had been paid but added there has been no attempt to collect on the judgment.

Judge Pratte said it was hard for him to decide what to do in a case like this but he said someone must be held accountable.

“… Somebody caused everything to change and it was this lady, not the victim,” the judge said.

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