Ex-officer gets halfway house in homicide by vehicle case
By Daniel Malloy
For Mark Walker, it wasn't enough.
The man who killed Mr. Walker's son will spend as little as six months in a halfway house, and even though the defendant and Mr. Walker's son were best friends and even though it was an accident, Mr. Walker wished for a heavier punishment.
Yesterday, Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sentenced former Pittsburgh police Officer Sean Deasy to six months to one day short of two years of jail time, to be served in a halfway house with work release. Mr. Deasy, 34, of Banksville, was convicted in December of homicide by vehicle for a 2004 crash on West Liberty Avenue that killed 27-year-old Joseph Walker.
The victim's father, along with Assistant District Attorney Matthew Wholey, had asked Judge Manning for a two- to four-year prison sentence, but the judge decided on a punishment in the lower end of the guideline range.
"When you take a life, six months in a county jail or alternative housing is unacceptable," said Mark Walker, 57, of Robinson.
Mr. Deasy will spend an additional five years on probation, during which he is not allowed to drink. He also was ordered to pay more than $11,000 to the Walker family for burial costs. He was ordered to report March 13 to begin the sentence.
Before the sentence was handed down, a choked-up Mr. Deasy apologized to the Walker family, as well as his own.
"Words cannot describe how sorry I am," Mr. Deasy said.
"Joe was my best friend, and not a day goes by that I don't think of [him] or his family.... I would put myself in his shoes in a minute."
The two men were drinking and playing Trivial Pursuit with their wives when they went out to get more beer shortly before 2 a.m. on April 21, 2004.
Police said Mr. Deasy, eager to test out the Ford Mustang he had owned for less than a week, was going 72 mph. The defense disputed the figure but agreed he was well over the 35 mph speed limit.
Mr. Deasy testified in November that he saw some teenagers on the side of the street and swerved, losing control after hitting something in the roadway. He crashed into a utility pole, killing Mr. Walker.
Mr. Deasy's blood alcohol content was measured to be 0.149 -- nearly double the legal limit -- after the crash. But after a non-jury trial, Judge Manning acquitted Mr. Deasy in December of the most serious charge, homicide by vehicle while under the influence, which would have carried a three-year minimum prison sentence.
The judge ruled that speed, not alcohol, was the cause of the wreck, though he still convicted Mr. Deasy of DUI for being above the 0.08 legal limit.
Mr. Deasy testified that he did not feel drunk and a defense expert testified that the effects of alcohol would be diminished for a frequent drinker like Mr. Deasy.
Mr. Deasy's attorney, William H. Difenderfer, called the sentence "very fair, very realistic." He said his client hasn't had a drop of alcohol since the crash and now speaks out about the effects of drinking and driving.
That provided little solace to Mr. Walker and his wife, Mary Ann.
"He feels remorse, but he can't be remorseful on his own terms," Mary Ann Walker told Judge Manning before the sentence was imposed.
"The truth is, nothing will make this better. The pain never goes away. We just get better at carrying it around."