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Eight years: Judge sets sentence in deadly crash

Micah Cates was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday in the August 2012 crash that killed Tanner Lee Perkins.
Cates, who was convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication in March of this year, appeared in Carter County Criminal Court on Monday afternoon before Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood for his sentencing hearing.
Blackwood sentenced Cates to 8 years in prison and denied probation or any other form of alternate sentencing and ordered that Cates serve the sentence. Cates, who had no prior criminal record, was determined to be a Range 1 Offender, which means he would have to serve a minimum of 30 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Drinking and excessive speed were both determined to be contributing factors to the fatal crash. Officers testifying at the trial said Cates’ blood alcohol content was 0.14, well above the legal limit of 0.08, and that the speed of the vehicle just before the crash was estimated to be approximately 90 mph.
Blackwood said the seriousness of the offense and the circumstances of the accident led him to deny probation or other alternative sentencing.
“Our highways are becoming slaughter houses due to people drinking and driving,” Blackwood said.
By order of the court, Cates remains free on his current bond and has a 30-day period in which to decide with his legal counsel whether or not to appeal his conviction or sentencing. If no appeal is filed, Cates would then be required by the court to report to serve his sentence.
In addressing the court before announcing the sentence, Blackwood addressed families on both sides of the aisle about not only the sentence, but also about the impact that Tanner’s death and the subsequent legal proceedings would have on their lives.
“We have here a terrible, terrible tragedy that has torn apart two families. Lives are going to be changed forever,” Blackwood said. “Your lives will be impacted not only by what has occurred but by what will happen after this.”
He then related a story to those in the courtroom about how his wife had lost her sister in a tragic accident and how it affected her. “She said to me ‘My sister would not want her death to be the thing that kept me from living,’ ” Blackwood told those in the courtroom.
Blackwood advised both of the families involved to not focus on the loss, but to look ahead at what their children would want from them.
“I think all you need to think about is what your son would have wanted you to do, and how he would have wanted you to carry on,” Blackwood said to the family of Tanner. To members of Cates’ family, he advised them to continue being strong and supportive for him as he faced what was ahead of him.