Archive for Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Probation denied in DUI conviction

November 6, 2001

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An emotional plea Monday from a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter failed to convince a Douglas County judge to grant probation instead of prison time.

Brandon Gentry, 30, Lawrence, will find out just how much prison time he must serve when he returns at 8:45 a.m. today to Judge Jack Murphy's courtroom.

In September, Gentry pleaded guilty to the Feb. 4 death of Shyra McGee, 23, Lawrence. She died in a traffic accident at the intersection of Sixth Street and Monterey Way.

Gentry also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated battery, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to obey a traffic signal and speeding.

Gentry was driving a sport utility vehicle that struck a car McGee was riding in. The car was driven by her husband, John McGee, 25. John McGee was injured, as was another passenger, Amber Sellers, 18, a Kansas University student from Wichita.

Lawrence Police and prosecutors said Gentry had been drinking with friends at a bar before the wreck.

Following a four-hour hearing, Murphy agreed Gentry is remorseful and that he has an alcohol abuse problem. But that isn't enough to allow a departure from state sentencing guidelines, he ruled.

"It's clear to the court that the defendant had some choices as to when and where he drank," Murphy said.

Gentry's prior criminal history showed he was convicted in 1997 for driving under the influence and in 1992 for cultivating marijuana. Because of that history, sentencing guidelines allow for up to 75 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and up to 34 months in prison on each of the aggravated battery charges.

Murphy must also decide whether those sentences will run concurrently or consecutively.

The DUI conviction could mean a year in the county jail, and the speeding and failure to obey a traffic signal could bring fines.

Gentry's attorney, Jim Rumsey, argued for probation and called on testimony from Wallace Mechler, Topeka, a counselor who devised a treatment program for Gentry.

Mechler said Gentry is doing well in the program. He said prison would disrupt Gentry's participation in the program and could possibly cause a relapse.

Gentry said he is sorry about the accident and has had difficulty sleeping and eating since it occurred. He said he constantly asks himself, "When is the pain going to go away?"

Basing his argument on Mechler's testimony, Rumsey said Gentry suffers from a biological dependency on alcohol and therefore wasn't voluntarily intoxicated the night of Feb. 4.

Asst. Dist. Atty. Dave Zabel disagreed. He noted that Gentry's blood-alcohol content that night was .28 more than twice the legal limit.

"He didn't have to drink in a social setting," Zabel said.

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