An older Cambridge man’s guilty plea in a 2008 car-crash death brings a three-year sentence of house arrest, demands for a letter of apology to the victim’s family and restitution of storage fees and the permanent revocation of his right to drive.

There is already a 15-year mandatory lifetime loss of license for a motor vehicle homicide such as this. Newton District Court Judge Dyanne Klein went beyond that in what may be essentially a formality for Detlev Vagts, already 82.

He is a retired Harvard Law professor, as well as a 1951 graduate of the school. He taught at the school for 46 years and retired in 2005, earning gushing praise for his work and skills. A former student, Pieter H.F. Bekker, honored him in the Harvard Law Bulletin by noting, in addition to more personal reminisces:

Vagts’ articles have also contributed greatly to legal thinking. “The International Legal Profession: A Need for More Governance?” (American Journal of International Law, 1996) has been particularly influential. … The article’s powerful plea for regulating international lawyers (including arbitrators) continues to influence today’s debate.

In the crash on the afternoon of July 8, 2010, Vagts failed to keep to the right as he drove his 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan in Newton, and his car was partially in the opposite lane of travel, police said. His car hit a Vespa and its rider, Marcia Kearney, 54, of Northampton, as she signaled and tried a left turn. She was thrown 82 feet by the impact, while Vagts’ car went another 448 feet before he headed back to the scene, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said Monday.

Kearney was taken to Beth Israel Hospital and pronounced dead.

“This defendant has now admitted and accepted responsibility for his role in the death,” Leone said. “This is a tragic incident where negligent operation of a motor vehicle resulted in the death of an innocent woman. We commend the court for ensuring that this defendant does not drive ever again.”

A hearing is set for Dec. 12.

This post was written from a press release.