Photo Gallery | Kyle Bailey sentencing
PITTSFIELD — About four minutes before the car crash that claimed his life, Garrett Norton texted a friend with what would be his final words.
"(He's) shot. We're going to die," Norton wrote. "Anyways, nice knowin' ya."
Norton, 21, of Housatonic, was referring to his friend Kyle Bailey, who was behind the wheel of the car as it was careening into Great Barrington.
Moments later, the car slammed into a utility pole on East Street.
Norton, who was in the front passenger seat, was killed. Another passenger, Matthew Moriarty, 21, of Great Barrington, was seriously injured.
Bailey, 23, of Glendale, was sentenced to four years in jail on Wednesday after pleading guilty to motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence and other charges in connection with the crash in the early hours of April 4, 2015.
The text message was revealed during an approximately 90-minute plea hearing in Berkshire Superior Court. Members of Norton's family and Bailey himself addressed the court.
"I wish there was something I could do to bring Garrett back," Bailey said, sobbing as he read from a prepared statement. He admitted to using "extremely poor judgment," which led to the "loss of life of one of my best friends."
Bailey said all he could do was ask for forgiveness, but he understood it may not be forthcoming.
"I hope at some point down the road, forgiveness will come," he said.
Norton's father, Mike, addressed the court and spoke of his, "beautiful boy" who was well on his way to becoming a successful auto mechanic.
Now, Norton said, his son's tools sit in a corner of the family's garage, unused.
"We want justice for our son," he said.
A family friend read a statement from Norton's brother, Kevin which described the pair's "inseparable" bond and how going from seeing his brother every day to missing him every day leaves "a pain that will never cease."
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Gregory M. Barry said Bailey's blood alcohol concentration was over twice the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle.
He said witnesses told investigators Bailey drank four or five beers at Norton's home before the trio went to two different bars where Bailey drank more beer and at least one shot of liquor before getting behind the wheel.
Another witness who was driving in the area shortly before the crash told investigators she saw Bailey's car approach hers from behind at an estimated 50 to 60 mph in wet and foggy conditions, before passing her in a no-passing zone and continuing in the oncoming lane for approximately a half-mile.
When police arrived at the crash scene later that morning, Bailey admitted he made a mistake and asked police to help Norton, who was pinned in the car, unresponsive, but still breathing.
When asked how much he'd had to drink that night, Bailey told police, "Obviously too much."
Bailey's attorney, Richard LeBlanc, recommended a jail sentence, rather than state prison. He cited other OUI homicide cases in which defendants with no criminal record served as little as 18 months of jail time.
"The last place for Kyle Bailey is the state prison system," he said.
LeBlanc noted that Bailey had accepted responsibility for his actions from the moment he met him, in contrast to many other defendants, and was anxious to resolve the case via a guilty plea, rather than put the families of Norton and Moriarty through the emotional rigors of a trial.
Judge John Agostini rejected the prosecution's recommendation of 5 to 7 years in state prison, noting that prison would not be appropriate for Bailey. "That's a different world," he said.
The judge acknowledged no sentence he could deliver would satisfy anyone affected by the case.
"No one's going to like what I do," he said.
Agostini sentenced Bailey to 2 1/2 years in jail on the homicide charge, followed by another 1 1/2 years in jail and another year suspended for a period of three years while Bailey serves probation.
During probation, Bailey must refrain from drugs and alcohol, submit to random screenings and participate in whatever counseling the Probation Department deems appropriate.
He was given credit for one day of time served in custody.
Agostini said he sympathized with the families gathered in the courtroom, but didn't reserve much of that sympathy for Bailey.
"He put us all here," he said.
Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.