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MORE: Driver in fatal Lansdowne collision sentenced to one year in jail

John Miller IV
John Miller IV, the driver who crashed into baby Tristan Schulz in 2016, killing the child and injuring his mother, was sentenced Thursday to a year in jail and given a $2,750 fine.

Miller, 47, was handed the sentence by Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. following a two-day sentence hearing that included eight victim impact statements, including around five hours of emotional testimony from Tristan's mother and father, Mindy and Rod Schulz.

The crash happened on Aug. 31, 2016, when Mindy Schulz was pushing her son, Tristan, in a stroller across a pedestrian crosswalk at the Riverside Parkway and Coton Manor Drive intersection in Lansdowne.

Miller was indicted in November 2016 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian.

On Oct. 10, 2017, Miller was found guilty on two counts in connection with the death of Tristan Schulz. Miller entered a no contest plea to the count of reckless driving and pleaded guilty to the count of failure to yield to a pedestrian. The charge of involuntary manslaughter was dropped in September because of insufficient evidence, prosecutors said.

On Thursday, before a packed courtroom filled with supporters of both the Schulz and Miller families, Fleming handed down the maximum penalty for reckless driving of 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500. He also fined Miller the maximum $250 for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

The most fair and just outcome, to bring back Tristan and turn the hands of time back for Miller, was beyond his power, Fleming said.

Miller could have pleaded not guilty and proceeded to trial, Fleming said. Commenting on Miller's statement that he didn't see Mindy and Tristan, Fleming said, as a driver, Miller had a responsibility and duty to keep an eye out for pedestrians on the crossing. Fleming also dismissed the argument used by Miller's defense team that Miller didn't see the mother and son because of a blind spot in his car.

"All vehicles have blind spots," Fleming said.

Fleming said the victim impact statements the court heard over the past two days had carried great weight, describing them as "heart-wrenching."

He said the sentence aims to act as a future deterrent.

"Liberty should be at stake for anyone who drives recklessly," Fleming said.

Mindy and Rod Schulz hugged each other and their family as the court rose and Miller was taken away.

Earlier in proceedings, Mindy Schulz had finished the final part of her victim impact statement, talking about the funeral and her son's tiny casket.

"I hated even more what Miller had done to our family," she said. "I did not lose my son, he was not ill, I knew all the time where he was ... My child, my baby, my Tristan was killed."

She spoke about a bleak future, about seeing things through a "filter of grey."

"I'll never know what it feels like to not feel this pain."

Summing up for the prosecution, Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R) said he had no words that could magnify those in the victim's statements.

He addressed some of the arguments previously put forward by the defense, that Miller had been obstructed from seeing Mindy and Tristan because of the pillar in the car causing a blind spot and the argument that the intersection was dangerous.

What type of person would be best placed to be aware of that intersection, Plowman asked, before answering, "John Miller."

Every car has pillars and blind spots, Plowman said. Who would be in the best position to know the blind spots in his car? "John Miller," he said.

Plowman said the scenario suggested that Miller "simply wasn't looking."

When there was chaos, mayhem, crying and people in need, and neighbors in their most desperate hour, "he left," Plowman said of Miller. He didn't go to Mindy or Tristan to see if they were all right, he added.

He recommended Fleming give Miller the maximum punishment the law allowed for each offense.

Miller's defense attorney Steven T. Webster, referenced the Schulz family's "grievous loss" before talking about the blind spots in Miller's car and the dangerous intersection where the traffic signals were modified by VDOT soon after the crash. He reiterated that Miller did not see Mindy and Tristan and was the first to dial 911 at the scene. He concluded that Miller had lived a giving life, volunteering and caring for his wife and father through ill health.

Webster recommended a sentence of probation, a fine and community service.

Upon being asked by Fleming if he had anything to say, Miller spoke for the first time in court.

He said he wanted to express his deepest apology to the Schulz family and said words couldn't adequately describe the sadness and grief he experiences. Not a day goes by that he doesn't “think and reflect,” Miller said.

He spoke about the journey he'd taken a thousand times, including crossing the intersection, where the tragedy happened. He added he wasn't on the phone, that he was not driving in a distracted manner and he wasn't in a hurry.

"I didn't see them," Miller said. "I would own up to it. It was truly an accident."

He described how he sought counseling and speaks to a pastor, adding it is inaccurate to say life has carried on how it was. Miller said he plans to sell his house and move..

Speaking outside court, Plowman said the Schulz family "gets no pleasure out of sentencing, no celebration." They are happy to finally get some accountability, Plowman said.

"It was a horrible case for everyone," he said.

Reiterating words he'd spoken in court, Plowman said the maximum sentencing currently available for reckless driving is inadequate and there is a big gap between what is needed to proceed with a manslaughter charge and a reckless driving charge. Plowman added he is working with delegates to have changes made in the legal system.

Related coverage:

-"Schulzes give emotional statements in lead-up to Miller sentencing"


Novaforever - “Miller ... was the first to dial 911 at the scene.”  My guess is that they checked his phone records to see if he was texting or calling during the drive, as well as the 911 records, and confirmed the statement above.

John M - you missed my point.  it was an accident and that is what should have been concluded with the sentencing.  i recall teen drivers getting the 1 year probation for accidents in similar cases.  the past cases dont match this one.  bad form for the judge to condemn millers entire family to bankruptcy.

accidents happen.  it was not intentional.  yet two families must suffer forever.

John M: Your argument is why he wasn’t charged with homicide.  He pled no contest to reckless driving and pled guilty to failure to yield to a pedestrian.  So, it may have been an ACCIDENT, but John Miller was the CULPRIT.  He was the CAUSE.  He ended a LIFE of a BABY in a CROSSWALK.  And if the people on the internet, including this person, really had our way, John Miller IV would have been charged with Manslaughter.

Didn’t he refuse to get out of his car after he hit them? Sitting in his car, waiting for the lawyer he called?

Terrible tragedy, justice served, time to move forward….feel sad for all involved…

The real crime here is that despite this tragedy people continue to drive on Riverside as reckless as ever.  We should use this tragedy to obey the speed limit to avoid this from happening again.

Loudoun Independent: It was an ACCIDENT. The guy did not wake up that morning and decide to kill a baby.
No matter what people want to say about the way he was driving, etc. the man did not mean to do it. I don’t know him but I’m fairly certain the guilt he feels is hard enough to live with. Just as I would never wish someone losing their child that way, I wouldn’t wish this on the driver, either.
Thank goodness people on the internet don’t get to put people in jail or we would have more jails than Starbucks.

Wow! Did Plowman try this case or just show up for grandstanding?

Out in 4 months.  But the sentencing may be challenged.  When was the last time a first offense for this charge went to jail?  Regardless of the tragedy, the sentencing needs to be tightened up across the board.

Hopefully this closes out this saga.  It appears to have been an accident that caused an unfortunate death.  He is getting the maximum punishment allowed.  Both families have to deal with that, but it’s time for everyone else to move.

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