6-year term for man in police deaths

Families, friends of 2 slain officers say judge too lenient

Sentence `just not fair'

Weiss, 26, admits drunken driving, running stop sign

September 21, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officers shook their heads in disbelief yesterday as a Baltimore County man was sentenced to six years in prison after admitting to driving while drunk and killing two city officers in October.

After pleading guilty, Shane Daniel Weiss, 26, was sentenced to 10 years on each of two involuntary manslaughter counts, to be served concurrently, and one year for driving while intoxicated. Circuit Judge David B. Mitchell then suspended all but six years. Mitchell also sentenced Weiss to five years of supervised probation upon his release and ordered him to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Weiss' blood alcohol level tested at 0.13 percent (0.10 percent is Maryland's legal limit) after he crashed his 2000 Chevrolet Silverado into a cruiser in Northeast Baltimore on Oct. 14, killing Sgt. John D. Platt, 35, a 17-year veteran, and Officer Kevin J. McCarthy, 36, who had been on the force for 15 years. Both officers were assigned to the Northeast District and were the third and fourth officers killed in the line of duty last year.

Prosecutors, police and victims' relatives roundly condemned the sentence as woefully lenient. Mitchell, who had chastised Weiss during the hearing, said the sentence spoke for itself.

"This young man ran through a stop sign without concern or care who was coming through," Mitchell said before sentencing Weiss. "He will be punished, but no punishment will be enough. However, we believe the defendant is experiencing remorse and contrition. While you will live, Mr. Weiss, part of the burden of your life will be remembering what you have done. It will be a weight around your heart."

Outside the courthouse, Platt's widow criticized the sentence. "I just think the sentence was just not fair," said Laurie Platt. "It's horrible. He gets six years, he's going to serve six years. He took two men away from two families."

Gary McLhinney, president of Lodge 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police, was similarly outraged.

"I'm angry because I feel these two families were just victimized again by the court system, and this is just a long list of how the court system in this city has let its police officers down. I'm tired of it," McLhinney said.

A passenger in Weiss' truck said that they had been drinking at a friend's house on Taylor Avenue before the accident. Police said Weiss was driving south on Alta Avenue at 63 mph -- in a 25-mph zone -- when he failed to stop at Glenmore Avenue. Weiss never slowed for a stop sign there, and his truck hit the police cruiser in the middle of the driver's side, police said.

Weiss, a resident of the 7100 block of Oliver Beach Road in eastern Baltimore County, lowered his head as Platt's and McCarthy's relatives talked from the prosecution's table about the impact of their losses.

"My husband, my best friend, father of our two children, was killed by Weiss," Laurie Platt read through tears. She said the couple had gotten up early that day to have a yard sale.

"I could have never imagined how my life would change that night when he left to go to work," she said. "My Saturday night did not end as good as it started."

`I wish Daddy were here'

Laurie Platt and the couple's two children, John Jr. and Rachel, happened upon the accident scene. "I prayed on the way to the hospital," Platt said. "I reminded God we have small children who love him and needed their daddy just as I do. I hear so often, `I wish Daddy were here.' All I can say is, I do, too. I can't say to them it will be OK, because it will never be OK. John was the backbone of our family. I miss John more than words can express. He was the love of my life."

A statement from Catherine McCarthy, the other officer's mother, was read by a relative.

"I not only lost a son, but Jessica lost her father," the statement read. "There are no words to describe the loss of a child. Even though Kevin was a grown man with a daughter ... he was still my child."

McCarthy was a single parent. After his father's death in 1999, he had moved back in with his mother to help her out financially.

"Kevin will never see his daughter grow up and graduate high school, and Jessica won't have her father walk her down the aisle on her wedding day," Catherine McCarthy's statement continued. "I ask you to show no leniency for the accused."

As they had when Platt spoke, some of the officers who packed the courtroom cried when McCarthy's statement was read.

`I feel your sadness'

Afterward, before sentencing, Weiss faced the families and officers from the defense table. "To the families and friends, I deeply apologize," Weiss said. "I know there's nothing I can do to change what happened. I feel your sadness, and I feel your grief, maybe not to the extent that you do, but I still feel it."

Then Weiss started crying and couldn't continue.

His father, Michael Weiss, sat a few rows behind him.

Weiss' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jerome Bivens, asked Mitchell to remember that Weiss is human. He said Weiss was very remorseful about the officers' deaths.

Before Mitchell announced the sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Jan Alexander argued for a 20-year sentence -- the maximum Weiss faced for the manslaughter counts.

"This behavior is ... outrageous," Alexander said. "I don't know how many more [public service announcements] or advertisements we need to do. ... Folks just aren't getting it."

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