A judge on Monday delayed the sentencing in a drunken driving crash last November that killed West Seneca Democratic Chairman Daniel S. McParlane.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia said he wanted time to review the testimony, photos, exhibits and investigative reports that were presented to the Erie County grand jury that indicted Robert J. Styn Jr., 62, of West Seneca.
He said he had not previously reviewed the grand jury proceedings and wanted to do so after reading the victim impact statement from McParlane’s family, which he said differed from his understanding of what happened the night of the fatal crash.
The judge said he also wanted more time to review the many letters he received from the families of both the victim and the defendant. He noted that families from both sides were in the courtroom.
He adjourned the sentencing to 10 a.m. July 2.
“After I reviewed the victim impact statement, I had concerns about the numerous letters I received and how they may affect my sentence,” he said.
He added that while the letters and any statements from the District Attorney’s Office and defense attorney at sentencing will not control what he does, they are a factor he will consider.
Buscaglia noted that when Styn pleaded guilty April 2 to two misdemeanor DWI charges, the judge had asked Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel about the McParlane family’s views on sentencing. She had told him then that she did not anticipate that the family would oppose a nonjail sentence. The misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.
At the time of the plea, the judge said he would sentence Styn to three years’ probation with conditions, but he added that he could change his mind, depending on the recommendations of the District Attorney’s Office and the victim’s family at sentencing.
At that time, James Vallone, Styn’s attorney, said he understood that if the judge changed his mind about sentencing Styn to probation, Styn would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
In the meantime, Styn was released without bail and ordered not to drive or drink.
Although the plea and sentencing will close the drunken driving case, questions still linger, such as the blood alcohol content of McParlane, an off-duty Erie County sheriff’s deputy who had met friends and associates at two area bars that night. Because McParlane’s autopsy reports will not be revealed at trial, it appears the public will never know McParlane’s blood alcohol level.
McParlane, 33, earlier that evening had attended a meeting of the Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association in a Lackawanna restaurant. Patrick B. Burke, then a county legislator-elect, said he also later met the chairman in a South Buffalo pub.
The Buffalo News sought to obtain McParlane’s autopsy report, but the District Attorney’s Office denied the request. West Seneca police also would not answer questions about whether McParlane had been drinking, or how much.
Earlier reports in The News resulted only after a Freedom of Information request and after appealing to the state Office of Court Administration when West Seneca Town Court officials denied release of any information in the case.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said in November he would conduct a thorough investigation of the fatal crash before determining whether additional charges were warranted against Styn or whether the case would proceed to trial.
In addition to serving as West Seneca Democratic chairman, McParlane was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Holding Center.
During the plea proceedings, Omel said a grand jury investigation determined that the “tragic collision” would have occurred even if Styn had been completely sober. Styn admitted that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Omel said McParlane’s vehicle likely hit an icy patch on Indian Church Road near Mineral Springs Road in West Seneca just after midnight Nov. 27 before it swerved into the opposite lane, where Styn was unable to avoid a collision.
There was no indication, she added, that either driver was speeding or that Styn was driving erratically or violating any vehicle and traffic laws. She also said that a crash analysis by the West Seneca Police Department determined that Styn tried to avoid the collision by moving his car to the right.
Vallone said Styn, a decorated volunteer firefighter who has saved lives, got out of his vehicle after the crash and tried to help McParlane before police and emergency responders arrived.
Omel said Styn or his passenger called 911.
McParlane, who was not wearing a seat belt, was unconscious and bleeding severely when rescuers freed him from his car, and he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Styn admitted at his plea proceedings that he had been drinking beer at a Union Road pub in West Seneca before the crash.
During the plea, Buscaglia asked Omel if she had contacted McParlane’s family before the guilty plea. The prosecutor said that she talked to the family the day before the plea and that they understood that although Styn was driving drunk, he was not responsible for the collision.
Vallone said his client, a retired General Motors worker, was an excellent candidate for probation, noting that the collision was not his fault and that he tried to assist the victim after the crash.
He said Styn also was in a counseling program in Erie County Medical Center.
Styn pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated and one count of driving while intoxicated.