Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Drunken driver's lawsuit against victim is out of line

David Belniak of Spring Hill has no shame. His sister, attorney Debra A. Tuomey, recently filed a lawsuit on his behalf contending that the motorist Belniak injured in a Christmas Day 2007 drunken-driving massacre is responsible for the carnage that left three dead. Belniak's suit says the other driver's estate should pay him damages for, among other things, his lost capacity to enjoy life.

Too bad if Belniak can't enjoy life to the fullest in a prison cell where he was sentenced to serve 12 years after pleading guilty to three counts of DUI manslaughter.

At least he can take a breath of fresh air, look at a blue sky occasionally, read a book, eat three meals daily, exercise, pray, chat with acquaintances, communicate with family, friends and loved ones and look forward to his 2023 release.

Belniak robbed Linda McWilliams, 66, of Hudson; her daughter Denise Bassi, 50, and her son-in-law Gerard Bassi, 51, of Connecticut, of the ability to enjoy life's simple pleasures when he plowed into a Chevrolet Tahoe stopped at a red light at U.S. 19 and Little Road in Pasco County. Gerard Bassi died at the scene and his wife died later while in surgery. Linda McWilliams was taken off life support a week later. All three were passengers in the SUV driven by McWilliams' husband, Raymond, who died 10 months ago at the age of 68.

Authorities have said Belniak had alcohol, Xanax and evidence of cocaine in his system when his pick-up slammed into the back of the Tahoe at up to 85 mph at 2:20 in the afternoon on Dec. 25, 2007. The victims were headed to Brooksville for a family holiday dinner.

Belniak never challenged the facts of the case when pleading guilty in criminal court last summer, but his lawsuit now blames Raymond McWilliams for the crash, saying he changed lanes, which prevented Belniak from avoiding the collision. It's nothing more than a clumsy, mean-spirited attempt to shift blame toward a deceased person as part of Belniak's defense against a pending civil lawsuit filed by the victims' families.

The first step toward rehabilitation is acknowledging responsibility for your actions and accepting the accompanying consequences. Belniak is entitled to his day in court, but this civil lawsuit clearly shows he has yet to demonstrate a capacity for remorse four years after his poor choices had catastrophic consequences.

Belniak's reckless self-absorption killed three people and sadly his cruel behavior now continues toward the victims' families.

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