Probation for Easthampton driver in parking lot tragedy

Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2020 7:03:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — An Easthampton man was sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday after he admitted to driving while drunk in a city parking lot in April when his friend, who was sitting on the trunk of the car, fell off, suffering injuries from which he later died.

Zachary Laviolette, 27, pleaded guilty in Northampton District Court to one count of motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol in the death of Matthew Kolb, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

According to Laviolette’s lawyer, Alfred Chamberland, of Easthampton, Laviolette’s charge was reduced from a felony with a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year to a misdemeanor with no mandatory jail sentence after “extensive discussions and negotiations” with prosecutors. This plea agreement was accepted by Judge Maureen Walsh on Wednesday.

According to court documents, Northampton police responded to the parking lot of 168 Industrial Drive around 2:56 p.m. on April 23 for a report of a man having a medical emergency. Officers spoke with Laviolette, who said that Kolb, 24, of West Springfield, had been sitting on the trunk while Laviolette was driving his car before Kolb fell off and hit his head.

Laviolette told police that he, along with Kolb and another person, had been drinking in the parking lot after working their shifts. The group had noticed a new delivery of tubs for a nearby plumbing supply company and drove over to inspect it. As they drove back, Kolb fell off the trunk of the car and hit the ground.

According to one police report, Kolb was told by one of the three not to sit on the trunk of the car; this person also said that the car had hit a bump, causing Kolb to fall.

Laviolette’s blood alcohol content was 0.09%, which is above the 0.08% legal limit, according to the district attorney’s office. Kolb was transported to the hospital and died on May 1 from his injuries.

According to the district attorney’s office, Laviolette on Wednesday was sentenced to three years of probation, the conditions of which include no alcohol with random testing, 100 hours of community service, completion of a driver education program, a 15-year loss of license, no driving, and compliance with Registry of Motor Vehicles suspension. He will also be equipped with an alcohol monitoring device and will be tested for alcohol multiple times per day.

In a statement, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Andrew Covington said that the incident was “tragic” and “could have been avoided.”

“The commonwealth would like to thank Matthew’s family and friends for their support throughout this difficult case, and also for their powerful impact statements today in court,” Covington said in the statement. “While no sentence in this case is going to bring Matthew back, the commonwealth hopes this disposition brings some justice and a feeling of closure to Matthew’s family and friends.”

Chamberland told the Gazette that Laviolette has “demonstrated significant remorse and regret for his decisions that led to the death of his friend and co-worker.”

“In court today, Zachary addressed Matthew’s family with sincere contrition and made a direct and heartfelt apology. The plea hearing ended with Matthew’s parents approaching Zachary and offering tearful hugs,” Chamberland said before saying he was grateful that prosecutors were open-minded on his client’s sentencing. “Considering all of the circumstances in this most unfortunate case, I am pleased we were able to reach a just and fair result.”

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Kolb’s father, Kevin Kolb, of West Springfield, said that it was a “powerful morning” reading impact statements to the court. Kevin Kolb said “we didn’t want any prison time, at all,” adding that all involved were friends.

“Not only do we thank the judge and the attorneys, we thank Zach, as well, for pleading guilty and accepting his responsibility,” Kevin Kolb said. “It’s been a tough year.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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