Andersen gets 2 years in death of NC artist Sievert |

Andersen gets 2 years in death of NC artist Sievert

Edward Andersen struggled for composure, his voice cracking, as he apologized for killing Nevada City artist Claus Sievert while driving drunk.

“I am so sorry that my selfishness caused another man to lose his life,” Anderson said at his sentencing Monday afternoon in Nevada County Superior Court. “I’ll spend the rest of my days coming to terms with that … I plan to spend every day honoring God and Claus with everything I do, in some way, somehow.

“A few years ago, I learned what the definition of a man is, I think, even before I became one,” Andersen continued. “A true man accepts responsibility.”

Andersen had pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence with bodily injury, and child endangerment with an enhancement of great bodily injury. The plea was conditional on receiving a sentence of two years in jail with the possibility of work furlough, five years of probation and stringent conditions barring him from drinking alcohol.

That’s what he received, as Sievert’s friends and Andersen’s supporters clogged the aisle and even sat on the floor in Judge Robert Tamietti’s packed courtroom at Nevada County Superior Court.

Andersen, of Grass Valley, allegedly drank the equivalent of 12 shots of whiskey on March 12, 2009, before he got behind the wheel. Andersen, 38 at the time, with his son in the vehicle, headed out onto winding Highway 49.

At Brewer Road in southern Nevada County, he swerved onto the right shoulder, overcorrected and then crossed into the oncoming lane.

Sievert was in that lane. He had no chance to avoid the collision and was killed instantly. Andersen’s then-12-year-old son also was injured in the crash.

Dan Pagter, a 25-year friend of Sievert’s and the executor of his estate, urged Tamietti to impose a stiffer sentence that would have included a prison term.

Sievert was killed just as he probably was entering his most insightful and productive time as an artist, Pagter said.

“We have people (out there) who put their drunk on and they come for you,” he said, before turning to the audience. “I’m speaking up for all of you … Are they going to come for you?”

Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis told Tamietti she had not joined in the plea agreement, saying, “This was not an accident. This was not an inevitability … This is a prison-level offense.”

Tamietti disagreed with Francis, reminding her that she had been the prosecutor on a “more egregious” case of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, against Lesa Shaffer. Shaffer was sentenced to just one year in jail and five years’ probation in a plea agreement March 2, 2009.

“That was a very different case. It’s apples and oranges,” Francis responded.

Andersen is a “repentant, rehabilitated and redeemed man” since the accident, said his brother, John.

“Nothing I do here makes any of this any better,” Tamietti said before imposing the sentence. “There’s no way to sugarcoat this. A beautiful and talented person died because you drank and drove … But I don’t see this as a case that gets (you) to prison.”

Tamietti sentenced Andersen to two years; he must spend one year in custody and can serve the balance on work furlough if he is deemed eligible. He must take a drunken driving class and a child abusers class, and can have no alcohol in his possession.

He also cannot drive during the five-year probation term in a vehicle that does not have an interlock device.

Anderson’s surrender date was set for Dec. 3.

“Justice was done,” said Keri Klein, Andersen’s public defender. “Ed’s a good man and he’s made a change in his life.”

“We want to make sure that this whole thing is not about us, but the memory of Claus Sievert,” Andersen’s wife, Heidi, wrote in an e-mail after the sentencing. “We know that no sentence is sufficient enough for the loved ones of Claus. It is all such a terrible tragedy, and Ed and our entire family have already devoted our future to get anyone who drinks and drives to realize that they are not invincible …

“It will end up catching up to them, whether they get in trouble by the law, hurt themselves or others or, worse, kill themselves or others.

“I know personally how Ed suffers internally with the thought that his accident killed someone, and he will forever have to live with that,” Heidi Anderson continued. “It’s with the grace of God that he can move forward, but he knows he still has a lot to face ahead of him.

“So, now we go through the next part of this journey and continue to honor God and the life of Claus. So very sorry to the loved ones of Claus … Our family prays for them every day.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

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