By Patrick Filbin
Gillette News Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — District Judge John R. Perry said he understands that when 32-year-old Eric Herman Jr. is on drugs, it’s a classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Perry said Tuesday morning that according to Herman’s long criminal history, which includes aggravated drunken driving, eluding police, grand theft auto and more, drugs “transform you into a monster.”
The two felonies that Herman was sentenced for Tuesday were his eighth and ninth.
Herman also understood at his sentencing that he would be in prison for a long time. He admitted he was the one who decided to use drugs in the first place, but when he is on them, he said he becomes an even worse decision-maker.
Perry sentenced Herman to 8½ to 10 years in prison for the destruction of property charge and four to six years for the wrongful taking of property. Those sentences will be served back-to-back.
Herman also will serve two concurrent 180-day sentences in jail for the two misdemeanors.
Additionally, Herman will have to pay more than $64,000 in restitution for the damages he caused July 19.
Herman pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to destruction of property and wrongful taking or disposing of property, both felonies. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance and eluding police.
The chase started after four officers, who were in front of the Ramada Hotel at about 12:45 a.m., smelled marijuana as Herman walked by and got into his Dodge pickup. When police followed Herman and tried to stop him, he took off at about 100 mph, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.
With police in pursuit, Herman got on Interstate 90 and exited near Cam-plex, where he drove through various lots and fields at the multi-events facility, including an RV rally. Then he drove through nearby subdivisions, plowing through yards, fences and unlit areas before arriving at the Energy Capital Sports Complex, where he took his pickup off road.
Officers lost sight of the pickup, but deputies found it a few minutes later on Highway 14-16 near the Port of Entry, where it was stuck in a small drainage area next to the railroad tracks. Herman then ran toward the Simon Construction lot, and officers soon saw a cement truck traveling around in the gravel pit north of the railroad tracks, according to the affidavit.
They placed spike strips under the tires and yelled at Herman to put his hands up and get out, but while Herman looked right at an officer, he ignored the orders and drove the cement truck over the spike strips, according to the affidavit.
Herman was pursued by deputies and officers all over the gravel lot, but he ignored them and drove the cement truck through fences, dragging them around the lot, according to the affidavit.
About halfway between Limestone Drive and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the cement truck couldn’t go any further because the brakes had locked and caught fire, police said.
Officers noted that Herman seemed to be under the influence of meth and was making illogical statements. About 0.7 grams of meth was found in his pickup.
When police examined the damage in the daylight, they found that Herman had crashed through at least 10 fences at an estimated repair cost of $6,500.
The cement truck was totaled with about $50,000 in damages and Simon Construction reported about $13,000 worth of damage to other equipment.
Herman also didn’t have a valid driver’s license or a commercial license to drive the cement truck, according to the affidavit. Those charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, as well as one for having stolen South Dakota license plates on the pickup, which he used in the chase and which had been reported stolen in Lake County, South Dakota.