Plea agreement accepted; no jail time in alcohol related accident

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The man responsible for the life-threatening head injury to a local woman when she fell from the back of his pickup truck in early June of 2021 had a plea agreement he entered into accepted.

Michael S. Kavanaugh, 43, New Palestine reached a plea agreement with state officials in June and officially had the deal approved in Hancock County Superior Court 1 by magistrate Cody Coombs on July 28. The agreement calls for no jail time but demands restitution.

Kavanaugh was facing a Level 4 felony count of causing catastrophic injury when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and a Class A misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated-endangering a person.

He entered a guilty plea to the Level 4 felony and was given an eight-year term with seven years suspended to probation. He was given 12 days credit and the other 353 days were also suspended. The deal states Kavanaugh must pay restitution in the amount of $100,000 to the family of Sloan so they can pay for her medical care. A $8,500 cash bond will be applied to restitution and the defendant will now make weekly payments of $500 toward restitution, court records state.

Kavanaugh is to complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment and complete an Advocates Against Drunk Driving Panel.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said when the plea agreement was entered into in June the case is unusual in that most defendants who cause life-threatening injuries while intoxicated are given time in prison. In this case, however, the state followed the wishes of the family, who need Kavanaugh to work to help pay for Sloan’s care.

The incident occurred in the early morning hours of June 6, 2021 outside the Round the Corner Grill, 19 S. Bittner Road in New Palestine. According to a probable cause affidavit, Sloan, 45, New Palestine, and Ryan Barker, 28, Greenfield, had walked to the bar earlier in the night. Kavanaugh arrived later, but the three left at the same time, around 2 a.m. The affidavit described the three as friends.

Barker told investigators he and Sloan climbed onto the tailgate of Kavanaugh’s pickup to get a ride home and told him to go slowly. But, Barker said, “He just took off like a banshee,” the affidavit said. Barker and Sloan tumbled off the tailgate, and Sloan struck her head on the pavement. According to the affidavit, Barker told police he tried to catch Sloan as they were falling but was unable to break her fall.

Police administered a field sobriety test on Kavanaugh and later drove him to Hancock Regional Hospital for a blood draw for a toxicology test. Kavanaugh told an investigator he had been drinking during the night and said, “I’m obviously intoxicated, but they were double or more than me,” the affidavit said.

Kavanaugh told police “They (Sloan and Barker) were being idiots,” at the time of the incident.

Sloan was taken to IU Methodist Hospital at the time of the incident and has never recovered, officials said.

As part of the deal, the state dismissed the operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person charge. Kavanaugh’s drivers license is suspended for a period of one year from June 10, 2022. However, he can apply for specialized driving privileges under Indiana Law to maintain employment.

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