A judge sentenced the driver of a food truck involved in a fatal crash in Virginia to 11-and-a-half years in prison Thursday.
Judge Benjamin Kendrick rejected the request by Tony Dane’s defense to reduce the sentence recommended by the jury. The jury convicted Dane of five counts, including manslaughter.
Driving a red, converted school bus for his company Dane's Great American Hamburger, Dane ran a stop sign on Evergreen Mills Road in Leesburg about 4:50 p.m. Sept. 8, 2017, police said.
The food truck slammed into a Audi station wagon carrying a family of five. Erin Kaplan, 39, was killed. Her teenage son, Ben, her two daughters and her mother also were hurt.
Ben Kaplan spent 54 days in a hospital and then was moved to a rehabilitation facility. His sisters and grandmother had brief hospital stays.
Dane made a statement seeking mercy, saying, "The tragedy that happened I couldn't put into words how it affected me and how it's affected the Kaplan family. There is no way to make this right. Only God can do that."
He asked to leave jail sooner in order to make amends.
"I need to do something to try to make this better," he said.
But the judge imposed the sentence recommended by the jury.
Prosecutors called Dane's behavior — knowingly driving a food truck with faulty brakes, no inspection and no insurance — "utter disregard for public safety" that had a "devastating impact on the Kaplan family.”
"If you endanger other people on the road — whether you're drunk or don't care about keeping your car safe — there are consequences," Loudoun County Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ryan Perry said.
The victim's widower, Faran Kaplan, declined comment after sentencing.
"He's lost a lot," family attorney Michael Shevlin said. "His life has changed. He continues to struggle with the aftermath of what happened."
Shevlin said Faran Kaplan wanted to express his gratitude to the community for its support of the family. As the food truck was headed to a high school football game, the Kaplans urge school districts to require any food trucks to be properly licenses, inspected and insured.
Dane's Great American Hamburger was based in Winchester and was founded by Dane. He is a father who initially bought the school bus he later converted into a food truck so he could travel with his family, the business' website previously said. The site has since been taken down.
Dane also is a conservative activist who was charged in 2016 in Nevada with trying to extort a state lawmaker into changing his vote for Assembly speaker, The Associated Press reported.
The crash and Erin Kaplan's death stunned the community, which raised tens of thousands of dollars to help with the family's medical costs. Ben Kaplan said he was grateful for that support.
"It's meant the world to me," he previously told News4. "The man who hit our car, he taught me about the evil in the world, but seeing all these kind actions has really taught me that the world can be very nice, too.”
After the deadly crash, the Virginia Department of Transportation made safety improvements at the intersection of Watson and Evergreen Mills roads, and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office hit the area with a special enforcement campaign.
Faran Kaplan attended the trial with a therapy dog he now has to help him through difficult times.
Ben Kaplan returned to high school and graduated on time.
"There was only one thing that kept me motivated, and that was my mom, my mother," he said in May. "I felt like I owed it to her to get stronger, to recover, to lead a happy life."
After another surgery this summer, he will start college close to home in the fall.