The Elkins man who allegedly accidentally shot a teenager in the leg during a hunting excursion in November 2011 was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison - a sentence that's nearly double the federal sentencing guideline range-Tuesday in federal court.
Robert L. Reckart Jr., 49, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for illegally possessing a firearm that accidentally discharged by U.S. District Chief Judge John Preston Bailey during a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Elkins.
The federal advisory sentencing guideline range for that offense is 10 to 16 months in federal prison with no eligibility for parole, Bailey said.
The Inter-Mountain photo
by Anthony Gaynor
Robert Reckart Jr. enters the federal building in Elkins Tuesday before his sentencing.
hearing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Reckart received a sentence of 30 months in federal prison.
In June, Reckart pleaded guilty to the charge before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Kaull in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. According to testimony offered during that hearing, Reckart admitted to slipping and accidentally shooting 16-year-old Tanner Boatwright in the leg during a hunting outing, which led to the youth's leg being amputated in order to save his life. The accident took place Nov. 25, 2011 at Reckart's hunting camp at an undisclosed location in Tucker County.
Reckart is a convicted felon, having been found guilty of cocaine distribution in 1986, according to court records, and is therefore legally prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Roger and Susie Boatwright, Tanner's parents, have since filed a catastrophic personal injury suit against Reckart, his wife, Gina, and his father, Robert Reckart Sr., in Randolph County Circuit Court. They allege that their son's injury was completely preventable since Reckart should have never had the loaded Harrington & Richardson Handi rifle that injured Tanner Boatwright in his possession in the first place.
In federal court Tuesday, Dr. Wally Edgell - the head coach of men's golf at Davis & Elkins College and a retired U.S. district clerk - testified on Reckart's behalf, saying Reckart was an active supporter of community youth sports, especially golf and Little League baseball, and always appeared to be concerned about children's safety.
"When he was coaching (Little League Baseball), he was always willing to help not only the players on his own team, but players on other teams," Edgell testified. "That was always something that struck me about him."
During cross-examination, William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, asked Edgell how much money Reckart had contributed to the D&E golf program. Edgell ranked Reckart second among donors and said he had contributed $4,000 to $5,000 to the program.
"Nothing further," Ihlenfeld said.
Reckart's attorney, William Wilmoth, said the night of Nov. 25, 2011 "was the worst night of (Reckart's) life." Noting the pending civil suit filed by the Boatwrights, Wilmoth asked that Reckart be spared from incarceration so he could continue to live with his family and work for the money necessary to settle the civil lawsuit.
"This is a case that really calls out for (a sentence) below the guideline range," Wilmoth said. "He had a weapon in his hand (on Nov. 25, 2011) for the purpose of protecting the safety of the children he was with. Unfortunately, this turned into a tragic situation, and he will be sorry for this for his entire life. It is our hope that, short of incarceration, he could stay at home with his family and work to recompense the Boatwright family."
"This is a case where you need to exercise discretion in a manner below the advisory guideline," Wilmoth said to Bailey.
Ihlenfeld countered that, "just because we have a defendant who has made contributions to the community doesn't excuse (Reckart's) conduct." He said he agreed with the probation officer's recommendation in the pre-sentencing investigation that Reckart be given a sentence that surpassed the federal sentencing guideline range.
"Tanner Boatwright no longer has his right leg," Ihlenfeld said. "When you've got a convicted drug dealer in the woods at night with young boys spotlighting for deer, it's a dangerous mix, and Tanner Boatwright paid for it."
Reckart spoke briefly, saying that Nov. 25, 2011 was "a terrible night" for both his family and the Boatwright family.
"I wish I could change what happened, and I pray their family finds peace through God's grace," Reckart said.
Bailey ultimately sided with Ihlenfeld, sentencing Reckart to 30 months in federal prison with no eligibility for parole, followed by three years of supervised release. Bailey ordered Reckart to report to the probation office within 72 hours of being discharged from prison and outlined a series of conditions that Reckart is to abide by, including submission to periodic drug testing and random warrantless searches of his person, residence and vehicle. Reckart is also to partake in testing, counseling and treatment for drug abuse while incarcerated, Bailey ordered.
"I have varied above the (federal sentencing guideline range), because the guideline sentence would apply if the defendant, on one occasion, was found to be in possession of a weapon," Bailey said. "But the defendant has basically ignored the firearm restriction - hunting from time to time, spotlighting for deer, carrying a loaded weapon in a vehicle around youth."
Bailey labeled Reckart's behavior "reckless."
"As a result of that, a young man has tragically had his life changed," the judge said. "Yes, it's true that Tanner Boatwright is doing well, but that's a credit to Tanner Boatwright, not to Robbie Reckart. I feel that 30 months is necessary to adequately punish the defendant for the seriousness of the offense and instill within the defendant and within the public proper respect for the law."
Bailey ordered Reckart to self-report for his jail term on Jan. 9, 2013.
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