Doneghy gets 20 years in officer's death; judge wanted longer sentence

judge regrets law prevented more

jhewlett@herald-leader.comAugust 27, 2011 

Glenn Doneghy was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison on second-degree manslaughter and other charges stemming from the hit-and-run death last year of Lexington police officer Bryan J. Durman.

Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael, using words like "regrettably" and "disgustingly," explained to a packed courtroom that he could not follow a jury's recommendation that Doneghy serve 30 years because 20 years was the maximum prison time Doneghy could get under Kentucky law.

"I just want you to understand that I'm stuck," he told the courtroom filled with police officers, families of both Durman and Doneghy, and members of the news media.

Doneghy, 35, must serve 20 percent of the 20-year sentence before he is eligible for parole. Having already served 484 days in jail as of Friday, he will be eligible for parole in two years, eight months and 16 days, Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson told the courtroom.

Ishmael and Larson blamed the Kentucky General Assembly for Doneghy's not getting a harsher sentence.

Larson's office had already sent victim impact statements to the Kentucky parole board before Ishmael handed down Doneghy's sentence.

Defense attorney Kate Dunn expressed outrage at that and at whose statements were sent to the parole board. She said many of the letters were from Lexington police officers, members of their families and distant relatives of Durman, and that those people do not meet the legal definition of a victim. She said that, under the law, spouses, adult children, parents, siblings and grandparents are allowed to submit victim impact statements.

Dunn asked the judge to get Larson to try to have the letters removed from parole board records and for those letters to be separated out from others in circuit court files. Ishmael declined, saying that, in the court's mind, those letter writers were victims.

Durman, 27, was struck by a sport utility vehicle belonging to Doneghy on North Limestone while investigating a noise complaint on the night of April 29, 2010. The officer died a short time later.

Durman was the first Lexington police officer to die in the line of duty in about 25 years. He is survived by his wife Brandy and young son Brayden.

Doneghy was charged with murder, and prosecutors, in a three-week trial in June, argued that he struck Durman intentionally while Durman was standing by the open door of a vehicle parked on the street.

According to court records and testimony, no one saw who was behind the wheel of Doneghy's vehicle when Durman was struck.

In addition to the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, the jury found Doneghy guilty of second-degree assault; leaving the scene of an accident; possession of cocaine; fourth-degree assault; possession of marijuana; and possession of drug paraphernalia. The manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident convictions pertain to incidents immediately surrounding Durman's death, while the other convictions pertain to Doneghy's arrest at his home several hours later.

Dunn, noting that Doneghy had only been convicted of misdemeanors in the past and had never been convicted of a felony before, asked Ishmael to give Doneghy probation or to run two 10-year sentences for second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault — both maximum sentences under the law — concurrently, for a total of 10 years. But Ishmael ordered that those sentences run consecutively.

The judge also gave Doneghy the maximum sentence allowed on each of the other charges. Those sentences, each of which involve much less prison time — 12 months or five years — must be served concurrently with the other 20 years under Kentucky law.

"It pains me that to the legislature my husband's life is worth only 20 years," Brandy Durman said after the sentencing. She said Bryan Durman had a lot more life to live, and now he'll never see his son get married or go to college. Brandy Durman said she planned to be on hand at parole board hearings for Doneghy.

The state legislature "let our law-abiding citizens down," Larson said after the sentencing.

Earlier in August, Ishmael refused to grant a new trial for Doneghy after his attorneys sought one, contending jurors were unlawfully allowed to walk freely around downtown Lexington during a lunch break after deliberations had begun.

"This is just a terrible accident," said Glenn Caise, Doneghy's father, who was at the sentencing. "It definitely wasn't murder," he said later in the day. "Glenn didn't try to hit this man."

Caise said that, with a lot of prayer and a little crying, his family would get through the situation.

"We've got to pray for them, too," he said, referring to Durman's family.

Defense attorney Gayle Slaughter said that Doneghy is a mild-mannered person, and to "characterize him as a predator is as far from reality as you could probably get."

Defense attorney Sally Wasielewski said Doneghy will appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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