The family of a college student from Henrico County, Virginia who was killed by a drunk driver last summer says that they are once again in mourning over the one-year prison sentence issued to the driver on Tuesday, February 12.Beckner's father and sister spent almost an hour on the witness stand celebrating his life and begging Henrico County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Balfour to give Bradley a sentence that would not further diminish the already short life of Beckner.
Edward Beckner, the father of Derrick Beckner, the victim, said that the family said to one another after returning from the court that they felt like they had lost Derrick for a second time.
Beckner, who died on July 5, was a 21-year-old standout student and athlete at James Madison University. He would have graduated this May.
At approximately 1:25 a.m. on the night of the incident, Beckner was killed instantly as he was coming home from a baseball game. The car driven by Matthew Bradley crossed the median on Staples Mill Road near the Interstate 295 interchange, approximately a mile from the home of Beckner. Bradley's car went airborne, landing on the vehicle of Beckner.
In his testimony, Beckner's father described the accident as looking "like a toy car some child had pushed down on too hard." He said that he found out about the wreck hours after it occurred on television. He then drove to the scene, where he learned that his son was the victim.
The original charges Bradley, a 23-year-old resident of Ashland, Virginia, faced were involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. After his arrest, he was freed on $70,000 bond. In December he received a conviction for DUI and involuntary manslaughter, a reduced charge with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Ashley Cooper, Beckner's sister, described Bradley as someone who considered a few beers more important than her brother's life.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Huberman urged that the judge impose a long prison sentence, ridiculing Bradley's reference to the death of Beckner as a "complication" he needed to put behind him. Huberman said that Bradley held no true remorse for Beckner's death.
Seven years of an eight-year sentence were suspended by Balfour, who also ordered Bradley to no active time for DUI, agreeing to allow him to be placed on work release while in prison.
Edward Beckner said that they had thought he would receive two or three years, instead he was disappointed that the court "bent over backwards to be lenient," rather than "cracking down" on drinking and driving.