Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against FHP from Christmas Day crash in Pasco

On Christmas day in 2007, David Belniak's pickup slammed into a stopped SUV, packed full of people and presents — even the holiday ham.

Three of those people died, and in 2011, Belniak, now 40, pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI manslaughter and other charges in exchange for 12 years in prison.

Then the lawsuits began: First, Belniak's lawyer and sister Debra Tuomey sued, alleging the crash was the other driver's fault. A jury disagreed and awarded $4.5 million each to three sisters whose parents were killed. Next, Tuomey sued in response to the judgment awarding the victim's family money. Finally, she sued the Florida Highway Patrol and three individual troopers for what she called "civil rights violations." She argued that FHP's investigation of the case was a "government-sanctioned assassination against one individual."

On Monday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against FHP.

Linda McWilliams, 66, her daughter, Denise Bassi, 50, and Denise's husband, Gerard Bassi, 51, all died in the accident at U.S. 19 and Little Road in Hudson. Ray McWilliams, who was driving, was injured but survived. Family members said he never fully recovered and he died later at 68.

Now, the civil case to collect money from Belniak is ongoing, but lawyers for the estate said they hope to resolve it soon.

"The surviving family is frustrated," attorney Maureen Deskins said. "Mr. Belniak, although he caused all this damage, it has not prevented him from manipulating the court system in an effort to paint himself as the victim."

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against FHP from Christmas Day crash in Pasco 03/25/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 5:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday

    Ml

    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  2. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  3. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  4. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended

    Nation

    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  5. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.