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A Shrewsbury Township man who caused a fiery alcohol-fueled crash that killed his brother said addiction has plagued him for many decades.

"I've been struggling with alcohol and drugs since I was a kid," Jamey Ray Hartless said Wednesday during his sentencing hearing in York County Court. "I'm basically a slave to it. I've been fighting this addiction ... all my life."

Hartless, 50, of Glen Brook Court, told Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn that his entire prior criminal history — including three previous DUIs, a burglary and two battery cases, all in Maryland — can be blamed on substance-abuse issues.

Hartless insisted he's a different person when he's not drinking, and said it's not in his true nature to hurt anyone.

But the judge disagreed after ticking off some of Hartless' criminal history, including the three DUIs. He noted that many people suffer from addiction, but not all of them drive impaired.

"So you do go out and put people in jeopardy," Renn said. "That's what you've done since the 1980s."

Despite pleas for mercy from Hartless' family and friends, Renn said he has an obligation to protect society from Hartless.

He sentenced him to a total of 8-1/2 to 17 years in state prison, which was still less than the 11- to 22-year sentence chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker had requested.

Barker said Hartless is "truly a danger" to society.

Hartless pleaded guilty July 7 to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, DUI, three counts of reckless endangerment, reckless driving and causing an accident involving an occupied vehicle.

The background: He was intoxicated when the 1988 Chevrolet Camaro he was driving slammed into a tree in York Township and caught on fire while he was fleeing the scene of a previous crash in the township, police said. The crash happened about 6:15 p.m. Dec. 2, 2013, in the 200 block of Reynolds Mill Road.

Sole passenger Timothy A. Hartless, 51, was rushed to York Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Jamey Hartless also was injured in the crash and needed hospital treatment, police said.

At the scene he smelled of alcohol and told officers he didn't know who had been driving, according to charging documents.

But witnesses told officers it was Jamey Hartless who was driving, documents state.

One witness reported seeing the black Camaro heading south on South George Street in the area of Apple Hill, weaving repeatedly across the center line, police said.

The Camaro then struck the open driver-side door of a Pontiac Sunfire that had broken down and was stopped along the road, according to police.

Close call: The driver was sitting in the Sunfire's driver seat with his legs hanging out the door when the Camaro sideswiped the car, according to police. The force of the crash knocked the driver door off the car, but somehow the driver escaped injury, police said.

After hitting the Sunfire, Jamey Hartless fled south on South George Street and turned onto Reynolds Mill Road, going perhaps 90 mph or more, according to police.

Minutes after the crash with the Sunfire, police were called to Reynolds Mill Road, where they found the Camaro had struck a tree and a stop sign at Kresta Drive and caught fire, police said. Witnesses rushed to the car with fire extinguishers to put out the flames.

Court documents state Jamey Hartless had a blood-alcohol level of 0.079 percent. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent. But he also had cocaine and lorazepam, known as Ativan, in his system, court documents state.

In treatment: Public defender Joshua Neiderhiser told the judge that the fatal crash "finally" caused his client to do something about his substance-abuse issues.

Jamey Hartless had been free on bail for about 10 months, his attorney said, and was in treatment. He didn't drink at all during that period, Neiderhiser said, acknowledging that 10 months is a fairly short time.

"But it's a start," he said.

Daughter Jen Hartless sobbed as she begged Renn for mercy.

"He has six grandkids he needs to be there for," she said. "Please. ... I need him in my life."

"I love my brother very much and I miss him every day," Jamey Hartless told the judge. "I'm really distraught about all this."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.

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