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Groom sentenced for fatal wedding crash

Ryan Quinton with attorney Scott Poole in Cherokee Court Tuesday. (Pickens County Progress photo)
Written by Angela Reinhardt
Pickens County Progress

“I know I’ve done wrong. I’m truly sorry to the family. I take full responsibility for my actions, but I need help. I am asking for another chance,” says Ryan Quinton.

The groom who was charged in a wreck that killed his wife on their wedding day has been sentenced in Cherokee County Superior Court.

On Tuesday, March 3, Ryan Quinton, 29, Jasper, entered a guilty plea to one count of Vehicular Homicide based on Reckless Driving and to a separate DUI charge brought against him in Pickens County for a separate incident five months after the fatal wreck.

The accident occurred in Ball Ground on December 29, 2013 on Highway 5 and claimed the life of Kali Shay Quinton as they were leaving their wedding reception.  This tragic incident garnered national attention.   

After hearing argument and testimony, which included a tearful statement from Kali’s 13-year-old niece and Quinton’s mother and brother, Cherokee County Superior Court Judge David Cannon sentenced Quinton to 15 years of probation for the Vehicular Homicide count. 

Additionally, Quinton will be required to serve 90 to 120 days in a probation detention center.  Once that is complete he will return to the Cherokee County jail for two to three months before transitioning back home.     After he is released from custody, Quinton must complete the Cherokee County DUI court program.  He will be required to wear an alcohol-sensing device for 180 days and will not be allowed to drive for a period of five years. He was also sentenced to 2,000 hours of community service and thousands of dollars in fines. 

Throughout the hearing, both the defense attorney and DA Shannon Wallace made comments about how unusual the case had been because of the ongoing support of Kali’s family towards Ryan.

“The family doesn’t want him prosecuted at all,” DA Wallace said. 

Kali’s mother, father and two sisters did not appear in court.

“Coming in and seeing the process was more than they could bear,” said defense attorney Scott Poole. 

In lieu of attending the hearing, Kali’s family submitted victim impact statements expressing their desired outcome for the case, for Quinton to serve no further jail time. In the testimony from Kali’s niece, who spoke in support of Ryan, she said he had become a positive influence in her life. 

“Ryan was a huge part of my family,” she said. “I saw how much he loved her.” 

In her testimony, Quinton’s mother, Diane Quinton, recalled seeing her son at the hospital after the accident. “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Momma, as God as my witness I want to be with Kali, I don’t want to live anymore.’ He was devastated,” she said in tears. “She was his soul mate and he lost her, and he was blaming himself for it.”

Quinton, who appeared somber in court and was brought to tears during much of the testimony, made a brief statement.  “I know I’ve done wrong,” he said. “I’m truly sorry to the family. I take full responsibility for my actions, but I need help. I am asking for another chance.” Sentencing in the case was not negotiated. Quinton’s sentence was completely in the discretion of the court. 

The district attorney’s Office requested a sentence of 15 years total, with seven years in prison.  Defense attorneys Scott Poole and Ross Grisham requested a sentence of 15 years of probation and asked the court to require him to complete Cherokee County DUI court, a 24-month program of intense rehabilitation.

In a statement released by Grisham & Poole, PC the defense attorneys said, “We went into this hearing knowing there was nothing the court could do to Ryan that would be worse than losing his wife. While Ryan would have preferred to go home tonight, he takes full responsibility for his actions and understands the court’s decision.  Ryan appreciates all the support he has received throughout this tragedy.  He looks forward to returning to both his and Kali’s family’s and to beginning his journey towards sobriety.

“Our hearts go out specifically to Kali’s family,” it continues. “This case has been unusual in that we have worked with them and gotten to know them because of their support for Ryan.  We hope that both families can put this behind them and look forward to a brighter future. “ 
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