Friday, October 5, 2012

One bad decision leads to 23 years in prison.

The Journal-Times in Racine, Wisconsin has a story that shows how one instant can change everything.

Albert Paragamian was an 88-year-old World War II combat veteran who was pulling out of a parking stall of Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints hospital on his way to meet his wife of 47 years as she was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home.  Richard Lewis was a 23-year-old man, on probation and driving without a driver's license, when Mr. Paragamian's car bumped the car Mr. Lewis was in.  Neither car was damaged.

As sometimes happens in fender benders--even those where no fenders are actually bent--temper(s) flared.  Although he denies doing so, a jury found that Mr. Lewis struck Mr. Paragamian in the eye.  The blow caused Mr. Paragamian to fall and hit his head on the pavement.  Mr. Lewis, apparently because he was on probation and worried about police contact, fled the scene when Mr. Paragamian fell.

When Mr. Paragamian did not arrive at the nursing home, the nursing home began calling around to try find him.  Mr. Paragamian was found lying next to his car (which was still halfway out of the parking stall).  Mr. Paragamian's skull was fractured from hitting the pavement and blood was seeping into his brain. He died seven days later.  Mr. Lewis was apprehended and convicted of battery to the elderly and felony murder.
Yesterday afternoon, Racine County Circuit Judge Tim Boyle sentenced Mr. Lewis to 23 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.  Although I don't know if this was the calculus used by Judge Boyle in determining the sentence, Mr. Lewis will be in prison for the same period of time he was alive prior to punching Mr. Paragamian.  Yet, as Mr. Paragamian's brother noted, the sentence is "never enough when you lost someone."  Mr. Paragamian's daughter echoed that sentiment when she said that sentence was a "relief" but "it doesn’t ultimately alleviate any of our pain.”     

I do not know why a person gets so angry that they punch someone 65 years their senior.  I expect that Mr. Lewis would like to get a do-over on the moment that he decided it would be a good idea to get out of his car and yell at (and then punch) Mr. Paragamian about the accident.  I imagine that Mr. Lewis will think about that a lot over the next 23 years.  Unfortunately, as this case demonstrates, there are times when you cannot get a second chance to rethink a decision made in anger.  Although it can be hard to do, being kind when one is angry at someone is almost always the better course of action.  Mr. Paragamian's family undoutedly wishes Mr. Lewis had learned that lesson prior to their meeting in a hospital parking lot.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Criminal sentences in this country are just insane.


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