GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A drunk driver involved in a deadly collision with a motorcyclist was sentenced Thursday to between 17 and 30 years in prison for the mid-July crash, which he tried to blame on bad brakes.

“I’m struggling to find anything good to say about you,’’ Judge Curt Benson told 37-year-old Joseph Arnold Hileski, who contends a faulty brake line – and not his intoxication – led to the fatal crash.

After he was arrested, Hileski tried to get family members to cut the brake line on his car to buttress his story that the crash was due to mechanical problems "as opposed to your bad driving and intoxication,'' Benson noted.

"The fact that you would try to get your daughter and your mother to commit a felony – a conspiracy to obstruct justice, speaks a lot,’’ Benson said. "And that's where I'm having some struggle finding anything good to say about you.''

In a statement read in Kent County Circuit Court, Hileski again attributed the crash to mechanical issues.

"My brake pedal shot down, so I got scared and panicked when I thought a pickup truck was gonna crash into my driver's side,'' Hileski said. "In that instant of panic, my foot came off of the brake pedal for a moment and the accident happened.

“I’m forever going to be remorseful for causing this tragedy,’’ Hileski added.

The offense, operating under the influence causing death, is a 15-year felony, but Hileski got additional time because of prior felony convictions.

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to dismiss a second case charging him with obstructing a police officer. That case accuses Hileski of leaving a Grand Rapids hospital to avoid a search warrant for his blood.

The crash happened July 17, 2018 at Leonard Street and Wilson Avenue NW. Police say Hileski was heading east on Leonard Street when he failed to stop at a red light and struck a motorcycle traveling north on Wilson. The rider, 35-year-old Jacob Eugene Craft, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hileski was taken to Mercy Health Saint Mary's Hospital in Grand Rapids for evaluation but took off after being treated. He was arrested at a nearby bus stop. 

Charges in the deadly crash were filed after toxicology tests showed an unlawful level of marijuana and alcohol in his system.

Hileski has a 2016 drug possession conviction in Kent County that put him behind bars. Other convictions include assault, aggravated stalking and possession of burglar tools. Hileski was discharged from the Michigan Department of Corrections in December of 2017. 

He listed an address on Apple Blossom Drive NW, which is less than a half mile from where the deadly wreck occurred. Hileski’s driver’s license has been suspended numerous times since 2001 for offenses ranging from drug crimes to failing to pay driver responsibility fees.

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