Koontz gets 3 months
SUNBURY - "I don't believe in the law. This tells me that you can go out the mountain, party, kill your best friend and only get 90 days in jail."
That was the reaction Monday morning from a very emotional and aggravated Norman Dorsett, 48, of Shamokin, shortly after the teen responsible for his son's death in a car crash last summer in Zerbe Township was sentenced to serve 90 days in Northumberland County Prison followed by six months of house arrest on misdemeanors of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of a controlled substance, and a summary of reckless driving.
Kyle Lynn Koontz, 19, of Shamokin, who admitted to the court that his actions ultimately led to the death of his best friend, David W. Dorsett, 19, of Shamokin, on June 14, 2012, apologized to Dorsett's family and said he loved the victim like a brother shortly before being sentenced by Judge William H. Wiest. (See entire statement in sidebar)
The accident occurred nine days after both teens graduated from Shamokin Area High School.
In addition to the jail time and house arrest, the judge ordered Koontz to be placed on supervised probation for five years, pay $1,034.55 in restitution to the victim's family for medical expenses, $32,703.65 to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency's Victim Compensation Assistance Program, approximately $1,500 in fines plus an assortment of court costs and fees.
Koontz, who has no prior criminal record, also must avoid contact with Dorsett's family and speak at least five times to high school students about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Despite Koontz's remorse and District Attorney Tony Rosini's explanation that the plea agreement in the case was consistent with the evidence the commonwealth would present at trial, the victim's father and other family members remain bitter. Norman Dorsett said he plans to a file a wrongful death lawsuit against Koontz.
During his victim impact statement, he said, "David was a good kid. He just fell in with the wrong crowd. I don't think it's fair how everything took place since day one. Three months in jail is like a slap on the wrist. He (Koontz) admitted to drinking, smoking pot and speeding and the charge of recklessly endangering was dropped. I just don't think it is fair. He's going to be out of jail for Christmas, but is my son going to be home for Christmas? No."
He added, "Is he (Koontz) going to learn his lesson in three months? I don't think so."
Dorsett, who later displayed several of his son's high school track medals outside the courthouse, broke down crying in court several times after presenting his statement.
Norman Dorsett's 38-year-old niece, Shannon Hummel, of Kulpmont, talked about how the fatality has torn her family apart.
"Our family has been fractured as a result of this," she said. "It's a mess. I just think drugs and alcohol are getting out of hand in our society. It's just terrible."
Ruth Fasold, 57, of Coal Township, who is David Dorsett's aunt, said, "I think the sentence was way too lenient. They should have done more thorough testing for drugs and alcohol. It's wrong. The legal system just doesn't work anymore."
As Koontz's attorney Trudy A. Marietta Mintz, of Mechanicsburg, was walking by members of the Dorsett family outside the courthouse and extended her condolences, Fasold told her, "I hope you are happy that you just got a killer off."
Dorsett said he was upset with Rosini and state police for dropping the homicide by vehicle charge and claimed he was not consulted prior to the plea agreement reached May 3.
Mintz said the tragic accident destroyed the lives of two very young and bright men and their families and hopefully will teach a lesson to teens and others who drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Koontz's stepmother, Nanette Yuchas, of Berwick, said she was very sorry for what happened, but contrary to previous reports by the Dorsett family, she said her stepson has been remorseful ever since the accident.
"I'm very sorry that the Dorsett family can't accept that it was an accident and Kyle didn't mean to cause David's death," she said.
Her husband, William Yuchas, also was in attendance at the sentencing but declined comment.
Another family member who preferred not to be identified said, "One of Kyle's friends told me he learned a lesson from the accident and now realizes how quick a life can be taken away. He told me it changed his life forever."
Several teen-aged friends of Koontz and Dorsett were in tears as they exited the courtroom.
As he stated during Koontz's guilty plea, Rosini said the court must look objectively at the facts in the case to seek a just sentence.
"It is my duty as district attorney to seek justice, not revenge. I have great sympathy for Mr. Dorsett and his family. They have suffered a terrible loss that cannot be replaced," he said.
Rosini said the defendant drove at an excessive speed on a dirt mountain road and lost control of his vehicle, facts that support the involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving charges. He said Koontz also had the non-intoxicating metabolite of marijuana in his blood, which is considered a controlled substance and supports the DUI charge.
He said, "But the evidence doesn't connect the DUI with the accident and therefore the homicide by vehicle charge is weak and based only on some brief observations by the officer at the scene after the accident."
Rosini explained that the homicide by vehicle charge has the same offense gravity as involuntary manslaughter.
"We chose to accept a plea to the manslaughter offense because the accident occurred on private property and fits the evidence more appropriately in our opinion."
He concluded, "This is a sad case. We believe by taking into account all of the circumstances, the plea agreement in the case is reasonable and the recommended sentence is appropriate for the defendant's acts. We respect the fact that the victim's family doesn't agree with this plea and sentence, but we believe they are just under the facts of this case."
Kyle L. Koontz, 19, of Shamokin, presented the following statement Monday morning prior to being sentenced by Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest on charges of involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence of a controlled substance and reckless driving in connection with the death of his best friend, David W. Dorsett:
"I take full responsibility for the death of my best friend. That it was an accident is irrelevant. My actions ultimately led to his death. While I am extremely grateful for the mercy the court has shown me regarding my sentence, I will in fact be in prison for the rest of my life. The day of the accident and David's death will never leave me and will forever be the defining moment of my life.
"Dave was a wonderful person. I loved him like a brother. Everyone liked him. He was just that kind of person. That I will no longer have him in my life - and that is my own fault - is devastating. I wish more than anything that I could have attended his funeral and said a proper goodbye, but I do understand why his family did not want me there. I have said my goodbyes to him privately and in my own way.
"I know Dave's family, particularly his father, believe that I have no remorse and that I am not grieving. That is simply not true. I am devastated. I was instructed not to contact them and perhaps that was for the best. As much as I miss Dave and grieve for him, I cannot imagine how his father must be feeling. I have no children, but I have heard that the loss of a child is the worst pain that anyone can have. I don't think there is anything I could possibly say that would come even close to easing his pain. I only want him to know that I am so very sorry and that I never forget the pain that my actions caused. It is my hope to speak to groups of teens about what happened and if I can keep even one kid from making the same mistake, perhaps that will help to heal the hearts of his family and the entire community.
"I genuinely appreciate the mercy that the court has shown me. The idea of being imprisoned for 90 days fills me with fear. And the house arrest for six months is also extremely uncomfortable. Although I will be in my home, I know that I will be extremely limited in my movements, especially if I am not called back to my job due to the layoffs. However, I am fully aware that the penalty that will be imposed on me is much less than I could potentially receive if I went to trial. And I am completely convinced that a trial would be terribly emotionally damaging not only to me, but to Dave's family and the entire community.
"Again, I would like to express my deep sadness and regret to Dave's entire family. I will carry the memory and guilt for the rest of my life. And I would like to express my appreciation to the court for accepting the plea that my attorney, Trudy Marietta Mintz, and the district attorney worked out. I will never forget the mercy shown to me and will work for the rest of my life to keep others from making the same mistake that I did."