BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A 44-year-old U.S. Coast Guard member who pleaded no contest to murder charges in a fatal crash while he was driving a Maserati in Bloomfield Township was sentenced Thursday to at least 25 years in prison.
Gregory Belkin, of Bloomfield Hills, was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded no contest at a pretrial hearing over the summer. He also faced the charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death. Judge Denise Langford sentenced him to 25-40 years in prison for the murder charge and another 10 years for the drunken driving charge, which are to be served concurrently.
Belkin rear-ended a Subaru Legacy on Jan. 24 at about 9:15 p.m. on East Square Lake Road near Rambling Way, just east of Franklin Road. The Subaru was traveling in the same direction and was pushed off the road and into a barrier fence.
Rhonda Williams, the 53-year-old Oakland Township woman driving the Subaru, was killed in the crash.
When officials arrived at the scene of the crash, they said Belkin admitted to drinking two glasses of wine at a local restaurant and buying a bottle of wine to go. He said he thought he might have had drinks at other local establishments, but he couldn't remember, officials said.
Belkin's phone records indicate that he was either talking or texting with his girlfriend, saying "I'm going 100, 120, 150," and then the call was disconnected. Belkin said he dropped his phone, and when he reached down to pick it up, he collided with the Subaru. Accident reconstructionists said Belkinhad to have been driving at least 100 mph at the point of impact.
Police video from that night shows the aftermath of the crash. In the video, Belkin can be heard nervously laughing and telling police he looked down and when he looked up her, car wasn't moving.
Police said that's not true. Williams was driving about 54 mph, which is just above the speed limit, when Belkin slammed into her. Her sister, Rebecca Miller, delivered an impact statement before Belkin's sentencing.
"I forgive, and I want to show grace. We love her and we miss her every day. It's so hard, but we're going to follow her example," said Miller.
High blood alcohol level
The judge said Belkin's blood-alcohol content was .315 percent, nearly three times the legal limit. Prosecutors said he topped speeds of 150 mph and the Maserati was traveling 134 mph just before impact.
He offered a tearful apology before his sentencing.
"There are no words. It's not who I am. I'm so sorry. You're honor, I am sorry and I hope that one day ... that I may still be a positive impact on my children and the lives of the people around me in my community," he said.
Belkin was an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard. He began active duty in the Coast Guard in February 2002 and transferred to Detroit in July 2013. The U.S. Coast Guard said July 27, 2017 was his last day of work.
"I don't believe that you're a hateful person, or a bad person. You've led a good life. You led a really good life. I will certainly express the gratitude that the community has for your service in the Coast Guard and the Navy. You did a lot for this country ... and I come from a military family and I understand the sacrifice. But I have to share with you that in all the years that I've served on this bench I have not seen a drunk driving case that has caused death that was this egregious ... I really don't know what you were thinking," said the judge.