A truck driver was handed down an unusually short sentence for a crash that killed a family of five and one other person after surviving family members urged the judge to show him mercy.
Florida based truck driver Tony Weekly, 55, was sentenced to just six months in prison and two years probation on July 20, 2018, in a Nebraska court, according to a report in the Minnesota Star Tribune.
The truck driver in a 2016 Interstate 80 crash that killed 6 — including a family of 5 on their way to be missionaries in Japan — is sentenced to 180 days in jail.https://t.co/GCHWYrLjs2
— Omaha World-Herald (@OWHnews) July 24, 2018
The sentence was handed down as a result of a crash that happened on July 31, 2016, on I-80 near Brule, Nebraska. Weekly failed to slow for traffic in a construction zone and collided with with a vehicle carrying a family of five, causing the van to collide with three other vehicles and to catch fire.
Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, and their three children, all three years old or younger, Ezra, Violet, Calvin, all died in the crash. The Minnesota-based family was en route to a training course for a missionary trip in Japan. One other motorist involved in the crash, Terry Sullivan, 56, was also killed in the crash.
Prosecutors said that Weekly was on a hands-free phone and reaching for a beverage when the crash occurred. Weekly’s lawyer reminded the court that it is legal for a driver to use a Bluetooth device in the state of Nebraska.
Weekly pleaded no contest to six felony and misdemeanor vehicular homicide charges. He also pled no contest to a reckless driving charge.
Though prosecutors were calling for a much harsher sentence of five to nine years in prison, Jamison Pals’s father Cedrick Pals appeared in court and asked the judge to show mercy on Weekly.
“Everybody makes mistakes, and he didn’t start out that day planning on killing our children,” Pals told the court. “I know how much God has forgiven me. How can I not forgive you? I am not in the position of authority to extend you mercy, Tony, however I can request mercy for you.”
Gordy Engel, father to Kathryne Pals, also asked the court for leniency for Weekly: “We ask the court to give the maximum allowable grace.”
The judge was ultimately swayed by the testimony of the families to hand down a sentence that is much shorter than what the prosecutors were asking for.
After the sentencing, Cedrick Pals and Weekly embraced outside the courtroom.