- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Rockville man who crashed his car, then fled as three friends clung to life, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years behind bars and five years of probation with alcohol treatment.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said the sentence - the same as what was suggested by the prosecution - was “appropriate,” given 20-year-old Kevin Coffay’s “history of alcohol abuse and driving too fast.”

“I’m encouraged, given this type of sentence, that we as a community are really beginning to take [underage drinking and driving] seriously,” Mr. McCarthy said. “It is not an accident. It’s a crime. There are tragic aspects, but it was criminal behavior. And there are consequences for that behavior.”

On May 15, 2011, Coffay’s car veered off Olney-Laytonsville Road, and struck a telephone pole and a tree, injuring four friends - all graduates of Magruder High School.

Coffay’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit in Maryland, court records show.

The crash killed Spencer Datt, 18, of Sunrise Hill Road, in Derwood; John Hoover, 20, of Rolling Drive, in Rockville; and Haeley N. McGuire, 18, of Artesian Drive, in Rockville.

Charles Nardella, 19, of Gaithersburg, who was sitting behind Coffay, survived.

Coffay fled the scene and led police on a three-hour manhunt to his home. He pleaded guilty in November to three counts of manslaughter and failure to remain at the scene of a fatal accident.

In the state’s sentencing memorandum, prosecutors outlined four instances from 2008 to 2010 in which Mr. Coffay become involved with police over speeding or drinking.

The charges in the May 2011 case carry a total of 40 years in prison.

But Coffay and family members of the victims told the packed courtroom that everyone touched by the accident faces a lifetime of bittersweet memories.

Douglas Datt, a lawyer and the father of Spencer Datt, spoke with a voice full of anguish. He said Coffay deserved more time behind bars because “a life sentence has been imposed” on the families.

“We need an opportunity to heal, a chance to bury the past and put the pieces of our lives together,” he said.

Coffay remained silent, sitting low in his chair as nearly a dozen witnesses addressed the court.

When it was his turn to speak, Coffay wiped away tears and said he carries memories of the late-night accident with him “every day” and remains in disbelief that he fled.

“No family deserves to go through what the Hoovers, McGuires and Datt families go through,” he said. “I am deeply sorry.”

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