Lawyer’s son sentenced in fatal car crash

A Chester County driver who killed two people in a car crash was ordered to spend 3.9 to 9 years in prison this afternoon.

Chester County Court Judge Anthony A. Sarcione imposed the sentence on Brian J. O'Neill, 21, of West Nantmeal Township, the son of a West Chester lawyer, for convictions that included homicide by vehicle and fleeing the scene of an accident involving death.

Police said O'Neill was under the influence of pot on Sept. 6, 2009, when he got behind the wheel of his 2006 Dodge Dakota at 1:56 p.m. and went the wrong way on a Route 202 exit ramp, smashing into a 1995 Suzuki Sidekick and killing Diane Washington, 45, and her husband of 11 months, George Parker, 47, both of Norristown.

After being detained by an officer, O'Neill jumped a guardrail, falling 36 feet. He was flown to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries; toxicology tests indicated that O'Neill had marijuana in his system to a degree that rendered him "unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle," prosecutors said.

But in an unusual split verdict in August, a jury concluded that O'Neill, who was a student at Immaculata University, had marijuana in his system but not to a degree that caused the crash. The panel acquitted him of the most serious charge: homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence.

The judge denied a defense request that O'Neill be deemed eligible for a "boot camp" program, an alternative to state prison.

"It would diminish the gravity of what happened here," Sarcione said.

O'Neill is the son of Thomas O'Neill, a member of the prominent Lamb McErlane law firm.

 


Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-696-3815 or kbrady@phillynews.com.