Timothy Dobbs

Timothy Dobbs, left, listens to sentencing arguments Friday in Dane County Circuit Court with his lawyer, Sarah Schmeiser. Dobbs received a 12-year prison sentence for striking a pedestrian with his truck after inhaling aerosol duster. 

A Madison man convicted of striking and killing a pedestrian with his truck in 2015 after inhaling aerosol duster from a can was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison.

The sentence for Timothy E. Dobbs, 38, of Madison, was only a few years shy of the maximum for those convicted of homicide by intoxicated driving. In March, a jury found Dobbs guilty of that crime for striking and killing Anthony C. Minardi, 51, who was walking in the 4100 block of Nakoosa Trail in September 2015 when he was struck by Dobbs’ truck, which had left the road and jumped onto the sidewalk.

Minardi’s family, along with state Assistant Attorney General Emily Thompson, asked Dane County Circuit Judge Clayton Kawski to give Dobbs the maximum sentence, saying he hasn’t owned up to what he did and continues to deny that he had “huffed” the air duster before he struck Minardi.

In testimony at his trial and in a state Department of Corrections pre-sentence report, Dobbs said that he had only “tasted” the inhalant in the parking lot of the Menards where he bought it, and later had passed out from pain as he tried to remove a brace from an injured hand before striking Minardi.

He testified in March that he was using aerosol duster to ease the pain of a hand injury.

‘Very truly sorry’

In an emotional statement before he was sentenced, Dobbs said he was “very truly sorry to Anthony Minardi and everyone in his family for taking his life.”

“I cry every day thinking about it,” Dobbs said, choking back tears. “I wish I could switch places with him and bring him back. I don’t think I could feel worse than this. I beg for forgiveness.”

But for Minardi’s family, which detected a lack of remorse on Dobbs’ part, Dobbs’ decision to take the case to trial, rather than plead guilty, was too much to bear.

“Timothy Dobbs and his high-priced defense team have chosen to fabricate this inane story to try to help him get away with it,” said Angie Haag, one of Minardi’s sisters. “He swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then he sat here in this chair and he lied. I just do not understand how this is not only allowed, it is expected, and we just had to sit there and take it.”

‘Not very believable’

Minardi’s mother, Barbara Schultz, said that anything less than the maximum sentence wouldn’t be enough for Dobbs.

“He says he’s sorry, that he would trade places with Tony if he could,” Schultz said. “Not very believable to me after watching him fight accepting responsibility for killing my son.”

The maximum sentence for homicide by intoxicated driving is 25 years — 15 years of confinement, followed by 10 years of extended supervision. In addition to 12 years in prison, Dobbs received eight years of extended supervision, making his overall sentence five years shy of the maximum.

Dobbs’ lawyers, Sarah Schmeiser and Adam Welch, sought a four- to seven-year term. Schmeiser argued that after overcoming mental health difficulties to become a certified nursing assistant, Dobbs struggled with substance abuse. She said there was no reason to give Dobbs the maximum sentence.

Kawski agreed that because Dobbs had never been convicted of a crime, he didn’t deserve a maximum sentence. But he called the crime “a grave offense” and said there’s an “extreme need” to protect the public from him.

“A vehicle can be a very dangerous thing when in the wrong hands,” Kawski said. “When a driver is impaired, a vehicle can become a weapon of destruction. What Mr. Dobbs did was essentially turn his vehicle into a careening, out-of-control hazard. He unfortunately crashed directly into someone and killed him. We cannot tolerate this kind of conduct in society.”

The morning of Sept. 5, 2015, Dobbs went to Menards and bought 10 cans of air duster, which was on sale. He told police after the crash, though his story would change, that he “huffed” the duster and passed out.

Witnesses saw his truck strike Minardi, who had just gotten off a Metro Transit bus.

Dobbs sat in his truck for a few minutes, then drove away on a flat tire before he was stopped by police.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.