Driver in 2017 fatal Pittsfield hit-and-run given up to 5 years in state prison
PITTSFIELD — Jerry Scott told the man convicted this week of leaving the scene of his brother's fatal hit-and-run accident that while he wasn't yet ready to forgive him, his brother might have felt differently.
"He would have forgiven you," Scott said.
Scott addressed Berkshire Superior Court on Friday afternoon at the sentencing hearing for Robert Smith, who, in addition to the leaving-the-scene charge, also was found guilty of misleading police, attempting to burn a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence.
Gerald Scott, 53, died at the scene after he was hit by the car Smith, 41, was driving on Linden Street near Robbins Avenue on the evening of Jan. 19, 2017.
Judge Mark Mason, who presided over Smith's trial, sentenced him to up to five years in prison.
Jerry Scott said he and other members of his family know that Smith did not intend to strike and kill Gerald, but just wanted someone to be held accountable. He said Smith's decision to drive away without pulling over and stopping and leaving his brother behind was inexcusable.
Jerry Scott said he was grateful to those who did stop at the scene and "hold his hand while he faded away."
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Kyle Christensen recommended a state prison sentence of four to six years, followed by two years of probation. Christensen noted that his recommendation exceeded the state's sentencing guidelines, but argued that there were aggravating factors that warranted the harsher sentence.
He cited Smith's previous convictions on narcotics charges, several convictions for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and Smith's conduct over the days after the collision.
Jurors found that the day after the crash, Smith tried to burn the car involved in the crash by stuffing a makeshift fuse made from paper and a cigarette into the gas intake. He later lied to police regarding his whereabouts at the time of the crash and persuaded someone else to give police the same false alibi.
In all, Smith was convicted of four felony charges — leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury resulting in death, misleading a police officer, attempting to burn a motor vehicle and withholding evidence from a criminal proceeding.
"We're thankful for the thorough investigation performed by the Pittsfield Police Department in this case, and for the jury's decision, which served justice for the family members of Mr. Scott," Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said in a statement Friday. "This case turned in our favor because we successfully sought a warrant to arrest a hostile witness for failing to appear in court, and granted the witness immunity for important testimony.
"The Berkshire DA's Office will not roll over when a witness refuses to cooperate with a court summons."
Smith's attorney, Edmund St. John IV, asked Mason to consider giving Smith two-and-a-half years in jail, followed by two years of probation. St. John argued that his recommendation, which he called fair and just, fell on the higher end of the state's sentencing guidelines and noted that in speaking with Smith's family, they all concurred that he was an excellent father and a good person.
Smith's children briefly addressed the court and echoed those sentiments.
Mason addressed each of the families present before imposing sentence.
"I cannot imagine the depths of your sorrow," he told Scott's family.
The judge assured Smith's family that they bear no responsibility for his actions and acknowledged the difficulty in deciding the appropriate punishment.
"No sentence can replace the loss of Mr. Scott," Mason said.
Mason said he weighed the guidelines against Smith's previous record, the seriousness of the charges and Smith's actions to escape responsibility for his role in Scott's death. He didn't go as far as the state recommended, but he did sentence Smith to four to five years in state prison, followed by two years of probation.
During that probationary period, Smith must remain drug-free, submit to random screens and will be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle.
Smith will serve his sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
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