Huntington man sentenced to five years in prison for intoxicated manslaughter

William Hooks (Source: Angelina County Jail)
William Hooks (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury found a Huntington man guilty of intoxicated manslaughter and two counts of intoxicated assault in connection to a fatal two vehicle accident Thursday morning.

The jury started deliberating Hooks' guilt or innocence at approximately 9:40, and they came back with a verdict by 10:45 a.m. The jury will headed into the punishment phase of the trial after they hear victim impact statements.

It took the jury nearly seven hours of deliberation to decide his punishment. Hooks was sentenced to five years in prison for the intoxicated manslaughter charge and given two years probation for both intoxicated assault charges.

In Wednesday's testimony, a forensic pathologist testified that William Brady Hooks, 40, had a blood alcohol level of .186, or more than twice the legal level, when the gold 2003 pickup he was driving slammed into the driver's side of a 1999 Dodge Ram 1500 van on U.S. Highway 69 South near Angelina County's Dead Man Road.

The van's driver, Lester Lee Banks, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Two passengers in Banks' van, Donita Banks and Tony Runnels, were also injured.

Hooks is standing trial on charges of intoxicated manslaughter and two charges of intoxicated assault, which are all felonies.

District Attorney Art Bauereiss told the jury, "This is not a crime of intent. It is a crime, but he didn't mean to do it."

Bauereiss told the jury there is more than one cause in the accident, and Hooks is criminally responsible if the accident happens as a result of his conduct.

Defense Attorney Ryan Deaton told the jury his client, William Hooks, is remorseful about the accident.

"It's something that he can never take back, it was a complete accident there was no ill will in my client's hearts," Deaton said.

Deaton said that Hooks was not trying to hurt anyone.

"What I'm trying to do is prevent another tragedy," Deaton said.

Deaton told the jury that reasonable doubt is the highest standard under the law.

"It's there so innocent people don't get convicted of a crime, and that's what we are trying to prevent," Deaton said.

Deaton said the state's theory of how the accident happened was wrong. He said if his client came off of Dead Man Road he would have been pushed south.

"He tells us he was driving north on Highway 69, and he is going to make a right hand turn on Dead Man Road there is no reason for him to go left unless there was a malfunction," said Deaton.

"You can say he's driving while intoxicated, but if that did not cause the wreck, you have to say not guilty," said Deaton.

Deaton told the jury that Hooks' intoxication had nothing to do with the accident.

Art Bauereiss responded by telling the jury the charge doesn't say anything about hesitation; you hold true to what you believe. He added that most of Hooks' testimony was, "I don't remember."

"Common sense tells you that not credible," said Bauereiss.

"At the scene we've got a horrible wreck, we've got a van where one person was killed, and two people were horribly maimed," Bauereiss said. "Several witnesses smelled alcohol, are all these people mistaken and wrong?"

Bauereiss told the jury that the first thing Hooks mentioned in his testimony was what a good person he was. Bauereiss continued saying if he is such a good person, why wouldn't he write an apology letter to the victims

"I think most reasonable people would be appalled by his testimony - that even with this blood level he would be good driving in his condition," Bauereiss said.

Banks' 21-year-old, L'Deje Banks daughter took the stand during the victim impact statement portion of the trial.

She said the last time she saw her father was at the football game on the night was killed.

"I had the best dad ever, whatever I wanted or needed he was there," L'Deje Banks said. "I'm fatherless now. The things that he would do for me there's no one to do for me."His wife, Donita Banks, said her world was turned upside down after his death.

"He was the cook the cleaner, the errand guy, he did everything," she said.

Donita Banks says she still have unpaid bills as a result of the accident and now depends on family and friends.

"One of the first things I had to do in my life I had to forgive you(Hooks), you are forgiven from me, that's what I had to do to move on," said Banks.

Amanda Gunthry said she has been friends with Hooks for several years.

"He is a good man, a good dad. You can call him at any time he'd be there," Gunthry said.

Gunthry told the jury she had never seen Hooks drink and said he'd been a designated driver on many occasions.

Amber Emberly, Hooks' daughter, told the jury her dad is a wonderful person.

"He has taken in me and my children. He's always been there," Emberly said. "My dad adores my kids. I couldn't ask for a better grandfather for my children."

Emberly said her dad is a home body who didn't drink much.

"If he'd buy a six pack it would last him two weeks," said Emberly.

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