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By NATHAN GREGORY
Austin Tyler Poole pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts of aggravated DUI in connection to a May 2012 accident that killed 19-year-old Treasure K. Huffman and injured six others.
In Oktibbeha County Circuit Court, Judge Lee Howard sentenced Poole, 19, to 25 years in prison with five years suspended on the first count and five years in prison on each of the other counts to run concurrent with the first count. At the time of his arrest, he was out on bond for a previous arrest in Clay County for burglary of a dwelling. That case was retired to files.
Poole was charged after the Ford Explorer he was driving crashed near the intersection of Oktoc and Skinner roads shortly after midnight on May 9. Oktibbeha County deputies were dispatched to the Oktoc/Bluff Lake area and discovered the overturned vehicle. It was determined the car came to a stop after running off the road and hitting small trees and brush. Huffman, a Mississippi State University student, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Several passengers testified Thursday that a group of people had gathered at one of the passengerâ€™s apartments in the Highlands subdivision and began drinking before deciding to ride on back roads. One of them, Rixie Mackey, said he felt responsible for what happened because Huffman, who was his designated driver, picked him up at his residence before taking him to the apartment, where the group convinced Poole to drive after Huffman said she was tired and preferred not to drive the group.
â€śI donâ€™t think she had known how much Austin had been drinking and we just convinced him to go along with it,â€ť Mackey said. â€śI feel like this is one of the worst things that can happen to anybody. Austin Poole is and has been â€¦ a trustworthy friend. I donâ€™t want him to be viewed as a monster.â€ť
Poole apologized to Huffmanâ€™s family and the other victims of the accident.
â€śIf I could go back to that night I would never have put anybody in danger. I take full responsibility (and) I canâ€™t put the blame on anybody.
I got in the car and â€¦ I put everybody at risk â€” the people on the road (and) the people in my car,â€ť Poole said. â€śNot one day goes by that I donâ€™t think about Treasure and I donâ€™t think about all the victims that were in the car. Iâ€™ve never â€¦ had anybody taken away, especially so quickly, so I can only imagine what youâ€™re going through. I just hope one day you can forgive me.â€ť