Zachary Thole, 21 of Richmond, pled nolo contendere Monday before Superior Court Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg to DUI death resulting for the November 22, 2013 crash that resulted in the death of 20-year-old Nicholas Gershkoff.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Justice Thunberg sentenced Thole to 15 years with eight years to serve and the balance suspended with probation, a five year loss of license upon release from the ACI, a $5,000 fine, and 50 hours community service. In addition, Thole must continue alcohol and substance abuse counseling and attend DUI school. Thole was remanded to the ACI immediately following sentencing.
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove that at approximately 7:30 p.m. on November 22, 2013, a motor vehicle driven by Zachary Thole was involved in a rollover crash on Hillsdale Road in Richmond. Upon arrival to the scene Richmond Police found Nicholas Gershkoff, age 20, trapped under the motor vehicle. Emergency personnel pronounced Gershkoff dead on the scene.
Thole, who was 20 years of age at the time, and a third passenger were transported to the hospital for medical treatment, where Thole told police he was operating the motor vehicle at the time of the crash. Thole consented to a blood alcohol content test, which registered .102 approximately two hours after the crash.
The police investigation later determined that Thole, Gershkoff and the third passenger had been drinking at the Cornerstone Pub in Exeter. In a separate investigation by the Rhode Island State Police, two bartenders who served the three underage individuals alcohol prior to the crash were charged with procuring alcohol for an underage person. Both individuals pled to the charge in District Court and the case was filed for one year.
“Getting behind the wheel of his truck drunk, Zachary Thole forever destroyed the endless possibilities his friend Nicholas Gershkoff had in his bright future,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “The death of someone at the hands of a drunk driver is always tragic, but the loss of a young man who had his life ahead of him should serve as a reminder to all young people that it can happen to them if they choose to drink and drive or if they get in a motor vehicle with someone who has been drinking. The death of Nicholas Gershkoff and the loss of freedom for Zachary Thole is irrefutable proof that underage drinking can have deadly and life changing consequences.”
Corporal William Litterio and Patrolman Adam Andrukiewicz of the Richmond Police Department investigated the DUI death resulting. The Rhode Island State Police investigated underage drinking at the Cornerstone Pub that led to charges being filed against two bartenders and the issuance of an order to show cause why the license should not be revoked or suspended by the Department of Business Regulation, which is pending. Assistant Attorney General Mark Trovato prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General.