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Pasco man gets 9 months for friend's 2006 crash death

NEW PORT RICHEY — The law called for prison time.

Damian Duval's family, like most defendants' families, wanted leniency.

The 27-year-old was charged with vehicular homicide in a 2006 crash — an accident — that killed George McBurney, his friend and passenger.

Even McBurney's father saw no justice in incarcerating Duval.

"I know he didn't go out there that night to kill my son," William McBurney said. "They were joyriding as far as I'm concerned, and accidents happen."

Duval was driving his new, souped-up Mitsubishi Lancer with McBurney, 25, in the front seat late on April 7, 2006. The Florida Highway Patrol said he was going 60 mph on the residential Clock Tower Parkway in Beacon Woods when he lost control and hit a tree.

Vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony in Florida, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Duval, in part because he had no other criminal record, was looking at about nine years in prison unless the judge departed from those guidelines.

Circuit Judge Shawn Crane did depart, sentencing Duval to nine months in jail, followed by two years of house arrest and 10 years of probation.

But no one was happy.

Not Duval, who came to court in a suit and left in handcuffs.

Not family members, who walked out angry, sad and stunned.

Not William McBurney, who believes his son would not have wanted Duval to serve time.

McBurney, who lives in Denver, also must wait that much longer to collect restitution: compensation from Duval for money he spent to bring his son back to Colorado to be buried.

Duval has already paid him $5,000 and owes $8,600 more. He also must perform 1,000 hours of community service in the form of speaking in schools about the dangers of reckless driving.

He testified Thursday that he thinks about the crash every day and wishes he could trade places with his friend.

"I'm sorry," Duval said, beginning to cry. "There's nothing more I can say."

Before he was led away by a bailiff, his lawyer, Willie Pura, offered some quiet words.

"Sorry it couldn't be better," Pura said. "You did the right thing."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco man gets 9 months for friend's 2006 crash death 08/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 7:30am]
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