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Driver pleads not guilty to homicide
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Driver pleads not guilty to homicide

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Dabbing his eyes with tissue, a Missoula man appeared in District Court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the drunken driving deaths of his two best friends.

Kenneth "Sonny" Martin, 23, faces two felony counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence and one misdemeanor for failure to remain at the scene of an accident.

At about 2 a.m. on Aug. 30, Martin allegedly crashed his Subaru into a parked pickup truck on Johnson Street.

According to court records, Martin continued driving several blocks before stopping the car.

When police arrived, Martin was walking around the vehicle, crying and yelling, "I'm guilty, I'm sorry."

The two passengers, Trent Kenneth Robinson, 22, and Timothy Seth Mineo, 21, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The charges were initially put on hold because Martin was in the hospital recuperating from injuries, which a nurse said were mostly due to soft-tissue damage and would heal, though he may need physical therapy in the future.

Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech officially charged Martin at his hospital bed Sept. 2.

Upon release from the hospital, Martin did not go into custody. Instead, he was assessed and recommended for placement in the pretrial supervision program.

Orzech laid out the conditions of his release, which include no alcohol, bars, casinos or driving.

If found guilty of the charges against him, Martin could face up to 60 years in the Montana State Prison.

Martin is the first person in Montana to be charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence, a new statute enacted by the 2005 Montana Legislature.

Prior to the passage of House Bill 46, the charge would have been defined as negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence of 20 years.

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at tscott@missoulian.com

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