A Rockville man who admitted responsibility for killing three of his friends while driving drunk last May will serve a maximum of eight years in prison.
A panel of three Montgomery County Circuit Court judges on Friday reduced Kevin Coffay’s prison sentence from 20 years.
Judge Terrence J. McGann read the unanimous decision in front of a crowd of more than 100, some of whom came to support Coffay’s request for a reduced sentence and some who came to oppose it. He said during the hearing Coffay, 21, deserved to be incarcerated, but his life “should not be destroyed.”
Coffay originally was sentenced Jan. 5 by Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Theresa M. Adams after he pleaded guilty to three counts of vehicular manslaughter .
Coffay pleaded guilty in November to those charges and one count of leaving the scene of a collision involving death after he crashed his mother’s car on May 15, killing three former Col. Zadok A. Magruder High School students.
Since his plea, Coffay’s case has been used to highlight the issue of underage drinking at Magruder and elsewhere in Montgomery County, said his sister, Mary Ellen Coffay, during the hearing. She said her brother and her family were unfairly “made an example of.”
“It promoted the misconception that the only way to fix this is to take another life and lock it away for 20 years,” she said.
Those involved in the crash were traveling from a party in Gaithersburg to another party in Olney when the car Coffay was driving slid off the road and collided with a telephone pole and two trees, killing John Hoover, 20, Spencer Datt, 18, and Haeley Mcguire, 18, according to court records. Charles Nardella, 20, survived.
Coffay, according to court records, fled and eventually was arrested after a friend drove him home almost three hours later.
Douglas Datt, Spencer Datt’s father, asked the judges not to change Coffay’s sentence. He said just coming back to court took away some of the relief that came after Coffay’s sentencing.
“When does this thing end for us?” he asked.
Coffay requested a new sentencing hearing in February, claiming Adams’ sentence was unfairly harsh.
At Friday’s hearing, he wore a blue Department of Corrections shirt and only spoke to say he felt sorry.
“Not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt the overwhelming emotions of guilt and shame for my actions that night,” Coffay said.
His lawyer, Michael J. McAuliffe, declined to comment after the hearing. He said during the hearing that the Jan. 5 sentencing was based more on emotion than the rule of law.
“In 25 years of doing this I’ve never seen anything like it ... Somewhere along the line it turned to anger and rage,” McAuliffe said.
McGann did not fully explain the reduced sentence at the hearing, but said Coffay clearly did not mean to crash his car that night.
“There is no doubt that he didn’t intend to hurt or kill anyone at the time of the crash,” he said.
The sentencing guideline for vehicular manslaughter involving more than one death in Maryland is three months to 10 years per count, McGann said.
He said Coffay did deserve additional punishment for fleeing the accident, an action he called “cowardly,” but that he could not be held responsible for “the culture of drinking” that exists.
Pat Hoover, John Hoover’s father, spoke against any change to the sentencing.
“What happened was so egregious, and so heinous that it defies comparison,“ he said.