Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Passing through Colerain Township just north of Cincinnati, 41-year-old plumber Scott Lane, saw his nightmare unfold. His springtime cross-country trip was uneventful up to this point, but now he faced the fear that awakens motorcyclists from their sleep – a careening car crossing into his lane and heading straight for him. At the wheel, 24-year-old Amber Schwartz, her blood infused with morphine and oxymorphine, was feeling neither pain nor anxiety. Despite laying the bike down, the crash was unavoidable.
Lane lost his left leg below the knee and fractured his arm. “I could see blood spraying out of my leg,” Lane would say later. He also broke four ribs and would undergo nine surgeries to reconstruct his shattered body. Lane would never ride his motorcycle again, nor enjoy his hobby of distance running. He would not return to work as a plumber either. In short, he was a man with every right to be angry — even bitter — and to demand the fullest measure of justice.
If he was angry, he would have an ally on November 15, 2010, when he appeared before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman. Amber Schwartz was not the kind of defendant who usually enjoys the favor of the court. Mother of three young children, she had been high on prescription drugs when the crash occurred. Police charged her with aggravated vehicular assault for the reckless and irresponsible behavior that left Lane an amputee.
What happened that day in Cincinnati stunned even veteran court watchers. Fully expecting Judge Ruehlman to meet out the maximum punishment for the crime — eight years imprisonment — those in the courtroom anticipated an impassioned, but largely unneeded, demand from the victim to throw the book at Schwartz. No one would have faulted the broken man for righteous indignation and a plea for justice. From his wheelchair, Lane did speak powerfully and passionately about life and injury and human frailty. The plea made an immediate impact on the Judge, but perhaps not as anyone expected. You see, Lane did plead for understanding and compassion that day, but for the perpetrator of the horrendous crime and not for himself.
Lane said “too much has been lost already; sending Schwartz to prison wouldn’t bring his leg back. Instead it would take a mother from her three children.” Judge Ruehlman was moved. “I don’t find that very often, where our victim has that much compassion,” Ruehlman said. “It’s amazing.”
Ruehlman sentenced Schwartz to five years probation and mandatory attendance at a drug rehabilitation program that will take her about four months to complete. She has to help Lane pay the $41,000.00 in unpaid medical expenses he incurred. Lane hopes Schwartz beats her addiction. With his incredible compassion as a guide, it’s a still only a possibility. “Maybe, just maybe, somebody else doesn’t have to go through what I went through,” Lane said.
Love conquers all — even revenge.
Merry Christmas, Scott Lane. It’s a privilege sharing the same world with you.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger