BILLINGS – The Billings man who admitted he had smoked marijuana before he got behind the wheel of a car and caused a fatal crash in 2016 avoided prison time at his Wednesday sentence.
Kent Jensen, 21, was sentenced in Yellowstone County District Court to 25 years at the Montana Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended.
Jensen pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while under the influence for the death of Jashua Fry, who was riding a motorcycle when he was hit by Jensen’s vehicle.
Prosecutors, along with Fry’s family, requested a sentence of 20 years at the Montana State Prison.
“To characterize this event as an accident is an insult to the memory of Jashua Fry,” said Victoria Callender, the prosecutor. “That word was used six times by Kent’s family today.”
The judge said Jensen’s lack of criminal history, his decision to stay at the scene of the crash and his age were all reasons for the sentence.
Laura Tiller, Fry’s mother, called the sentence the latest example of Montana judges slapping impaired drivers on the wrist.
“I think that it just set the precedent for the whole community, that it’s not a big deal, I’m just going to have a slap on the wrist,” said Tiller. “And not that I wanted him to spend years of his life in prison, but there are consequences.”
Jensen rolled a stop sign at the intersection of Wise Lane and Frontage Road before striking the oncoming motorcyclist.
Jensen stayed at the scene, where Fry was pronounced dead, and submitted to a blood test.
The blood test later revealed that the level of THC in Jensen’s blood was four times the legal standard in Montana.
Family of Fry took the stand Wednesday to tell the judge Jensen’s careless and selfish actions forever changed their lives.
“One moment it was a happy full family, the next moment it was all taken away,” said Tiller as she showed the judge family photos.
Tiller described her son as a family man with a great sense of humor. Fry gave himself the nickname Redneck, his mother said.
Jensen’s family testified in his defense, calling him a kind-hearted man who turned to drugs during a difficult time in his life.
Jensen told the pre-sentence investigator that he regularly used marijuana and began using the drug at the age of 13.
“It was a tragic situation and I’m never going to be able to fix that problem, I can only accept what I did that day,” said Jensen before he learned his sentence.
In addition to court-mandated treatment, Judge Gregory Todd ordered Jensen to speak at every Billings middle school and high school about the dangers of driving under the influence.
That’s the one part of the sentence that Tiller said she agrees with.
“Even if it helped one student to not do this, saved one life, it would be a good thing,” said Tiller.
Reporting by Aja Goare for MTN News