JURY SEEKS 16-YEAR TERM IN DUI CASE
LARRY MAHONEY AND DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM SOMMERS WEEP TOGETHER DURING CLOSING ARGUMENTS I N THE SENTENCING PHASE.A jury Friday recommended a 16-year prison sentence for the man convicted of causing a fiery crash that killed 27 people on a church bus in the nation's worst drunken-driving accident.
Under Kentucky law, Larry Mahoney would have to spend eight years in prison before he could be considered for parole. He was tried on 27 counts of murder, which carried a life sentence, but the jury convicted him Thursday of 27 counts of second-degree manslaughter, a lesser charge.Mahoney, 36, was composed as he stood to hear Judge Charles Satterwhite read each of the sentence recommendations, but he appeared to have tears welling in his eyes by the time the judge concluded.
Satterwhite must schedule a formal sentencing. He could give Mahoney a lighter sentence than the jury recommended but cannot exceed the jury's recommendation.
The jury recommended 16 years of a possible 20-year sentence on each of 12 counts of first-degree assault. It recommended maximum prison terms of 10 years on each of 27 counts of second-degree manslaughter, five years on each of 27 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and one year on each of 14 counts of second-degree wanton endangerment, a misdemeanor.
The jury then exercised its option of recommending that the sentences run concurrently.
At a sentencing hearing Thursday, Mahoney had pleaded for a chance to atone, saying he could warn schoolchildren of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The prosecutor, during the sentencing hearing, said Mahoney should draw a long prison sentence because his victims, 24 of them children, "will never get the opportunity to . . . talk to other children."
Mahoney, a chemical plant worker, was driving on the wrong side of Interstate 71 near Carrollton on May 14, 1988, when his pickup collided with the bus. Autopsies showed the resulting fire, not the crash, killed the victims.
Mahoney also was convicted on 12 counts of first-degree assault, for the children who were badly burned in the fire; on 27 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, representing others who escaped the bus; and 14 counts of second-degree wanton endangerment, for motorists who had to dodge his truck.