Heavy-Metal Star Gets $2.6-Million Sentence
Vincent Neil Wharton, lead singer for the heavy-metal rock band Motley Crue, was ordered on Friday to pay $2.6 million to two automobile crash victims and to the estate of a third in exchange for pleading guilty to charges of drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter.
Torrance Superior Court Judge Edward A. Hinz Jr. also sentenced Wharton--who uses the stage name Vince Neil--to spend 30 days in County Jail, serve five years’ probation and perform 200 hours of community service.
The singer will go to jail June 15, after spending the next nine months touring the United States and Europe with the rock group.
“I am just glad that I am going to be able to take care of the victims,” Wharton, 24, said after sentencing. “If I am not out on the road, I can’t make any money (to pay the restitution).”
The Redondo Beach man was arrested in that city the evening of Dec. 8, after his sports car went out of control on the Esplanade and veered into oncoming traffic, ramming head on into a Volkswagen.
The collision killed Wharton’s passenger, Nicholas Dingley, drummer for a British band, Hanoi Rocks, and seriously injured Daniel L. Smithers, 20, of Hermosa Beach, the Volkswagen driver, and his passenger, Lisa Hogan, 18, of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Authorities said Wharton, who suffered minor injuries, registered a .17% blood-alcohol level when tested after the accident. A driver is considered legally intoxicated at .10%.
In a plea-bargain reached in July by attorneys for the vocalist and the accident victims, Wharton agreed to plead guilty. In turn, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office agreed not to seek a prison term, provided that Wharton perform community service and make restitution.
The agreement was later amended to include the 30-day jail term after a probation report recommended the incarceration and after it was learned that some of the restitution would be covered by Wharton’s insurance, attorneys said.
Wharton could have faced up to eight years in prison.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Roger Kelly said the singer had already performed 40 to 50 hours of service, including last month’s Motley Crue concert at the Forum in Inglewood, which benefited the Palmer Drug Abuse Program. Smithers has been a program counselor.
Under the settlement, Hogan will receive $1.8 million, and Smithers $571,000. Dingley’s estate, administered by his parents, Henry and Irene, will receive $200,000.
Attorneys on both sides said the sentence is fair because it provides for restitution while allowing Wharton to use his popularity and visibility to speak against drunk driving. The inner sleeve of his group’s latest album, “Theatre of Pain,” reads: “To all Crue Fans: If and/or when you drink--Don’t take the wheel. Live and learn.”
Wharton said he is thankful that the sentence enables him to continue performing and to be a “role model” for his fans.
“If you drink and drive, either you are going to die, or a friend of yours is going to die, or someone you don’t know will die,” the singer said. “You don’t think this can happen to you. It can.”
Hogan, who suffered severe head injuries and was in a coma for 28 days, said Friday: “I am satisfied, as long as he stays sober.”