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Ryan Fellion gets 2-year suspended jail sentence for causing crash that killed Amherst blogger Larry Kelley

  • Ryan Fellion, right, pleads guilty Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Fellion is with his attorney, David C. Kuzmeski. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Ryan Fellion, right, pleads guilty Thursday in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Fellion is with his attorney, David C. Kuzmeski. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Ryan Fellion, right, pleads guilty Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Fellion is with his attorney, David C. Kuzmeski. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS



@ecutts_HG
Thursday, April 26, 2018

BELCHERTOWN — The Belchertown teen who caused the crash that killed Amherst blogger Larry Kelley on Feb. 17, 2017, will not serve jail time.

Ryan Fellion, 19, pleaded guilty Thursday in Eastern Hampshire District Court to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Judge Michael Mulcahy sentenced Fellion to two years in jail, which was suspended for two years during which time he will be on probation.

Fellion also loses his license for 15 years and was ordered to make presentations to teenagers about the dangers of negligent driving.

As part of the plea deal, Fellion was found not responsible for three civil infractions — a marked lanes violation, failure to drive in the right lane and unsafe operation of a motor vehicle.

Kelley, 62, was a prominent blogger in Amherst on his website Only in the Republic of Amherst and an elected member of Town Meeting.

Police alleged Fellion was driving west on Route 9 when his vehicle crossed over the center line and struck Kelley’s eastbound car nearly head-on near 299 Federal St. Kelley was headed to Belchertown to pick up one of his daughters from school.

While investigators found evidence of internet data usage on Fellion’s phone, there was no evidence that he was texting, making phone calls or browsing the internet at the time of the crash, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Andrew Covington said. Investigators also found no evidence of mechanical defects with Fellion’s car, Covington said.

It is unclear exactly what caused the crash. Kelley was pronounced dead at the scene as the result of blunt force trauma, Covington said.

Before Mulcahy handed down his sentence, six of Kelley’s relatives and friends spoke about him, many urging the judge to impose the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge, which is 2½ years in jail.

Family speaks

Addressing the judge, Kelley’s youngest daughter, Jada, told the judge about the time she spent with her father — going to the playground; waking up early to eat breakfast; visiting her aunt; and Goldfish and pickles, the favorite snack he would always bring her.

“I will never forget about them,” Jada said. “Sometimes at night, I look up for daddy’s star in the sky so I can say hello to him.”

Kelley’s former wife, Donna Kelley, of Belchertown, said that after his death, both of their daughters were afraid they would lose another person or that they would die in a car crash.

“Mr. Fellion will never see the extent he hurt Larry’s family and friends,” she said.

The last few minutes of Larry Kelley’s life were horrific, Donna Kelley said.

His brother Tom Kelley, of Hadley, said he lost his best friend and that his Christmases would never be the same. “I would like to see the maximum sentence given in this case,” he said.

Larry Kelley’s sister, Peggy Garcia, of Virginia, told the judge that she had read the witness statements, seen the accident photos and been to the site of the crash.

“This never, ever should have happened,” she said. “He was a father. He was my brother. He was a citizen. He is dead now and I have a hard time understanding this is a misdemeanor crime.”

Garcia asked for a sentence that would make a strong statement on negligent driving.

“We want a message that is going to resonate with young drivers,” she said. “We can’t bring Larry back, but we need to let Larry rest in peace knowing justice had been served.”

Sentencing decision

The prosecution asked Mulcahy to sentence Fellion to 2½ years in jail, with one year to be served and the rest suspended for three years while Fellion would be on probation.

“This was an absolutely horrific head-on fatal crash,” Covington said.

Covington argued that the “absolute” inattentiveness and negligence that led Fellion to cross the road’s center line and strike Kelley’s car head-on warranted a jail sentence, despite the fact that Fellion had no criminal record.

Fellion’s attorney, David C. Kuzmeski, of Easthampton, argued that jail changes people and was an inappropriate punishment that Fellion did not deserve.

“This is a sad occasion today, no doubt about that,” Kuzmeski said. “Tragically, Mr. Kelley last February died in an auto accident. His family still mourns. They are left … with only the memory of a loving husband, father, brother, friend. They are feeling anger, frustration, which is totally understandable under the circumstances. For this, I and Mr. Fellion are sorry that they are going through all of this.”

Fellion had two passengers in his car who Kuzmeski said also suffered injuries and had their lives changed.

“And there is Ryan, a young man, full of life, goals and ambition. Now at 19, he has the dreadful burden of forever knowing his conduct caused the death of another human being,” Kuzmeski said. “There isn’t a day since this accident that he hasn’t thought about it, that he hasn’t felt sorry for it, that he hasn’t felt the pain of the injuries that he has caused others. He is truly remorseful.”

Kuzmeski argued there was no intent to cause injury and that Fellion did not act maliciously, but rather the crash was a tragic accident.

“There is nothing that is going to be productive, whatsoever, in sending Mr. Fellion to jail,” Kuzmeski said.

Letters in support of Fellion were given to the judge but none was read aloud during the hearing. After both attorneys made their arguments, Mulcahy took a recess before handing down his sentence of the suspended jail term, which includes the mandatory loss of license. He cited a number of factors, including Fellion’s willingness to accept responsibility, his age and lack of record.

Mulcahy also referred to the “tragic, deep and irreversible impact of the crime on Mr. Kelley’s family,” in ordering Fellion to give no fewer than 30 presentations to teenagers on the dangers of negligent driving and the devastating, wide-ranging impact caused by his actions.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.