Parents of a vehicular homicide victim should not get to decide the punishment.
William Risko died at 29 in March 2011 on Stroudsburg’s North Eighth Street, when after a night of drinking with his two brothers, younger brother Kyle accidentally ran over him. First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso said he won’t seek jail time for Kyle Risko, who pleaded guilty last week to homicide by vehicle, a felony, and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of his brother. Instead, Mancuso will seek four to five years of probation, screening by a drug counselor and continued meetings with a counselor. Mancuso said Risko’s family didn’t want charges filed, and that played a role, though not a deciding role, in the decision.
The problem is, Kyle Risko compounded the tragic accidental death of his brother. Kyle Risko misled police as to what actually happened that night. Only because police were able to view the entire accident snared by a security camera on an adjacent building did they know Risko’s version of events was wrong.
When police arrived at the grisly scene on North Eighth Street, Kyle Risko told them he had been drinking with his two brothers and the three got a room in a nearby hotel room, where they had beer and cocaine. He said the third brother woke and left; William then woke Kyle and told him it was time to go. Kyle told police he got separated from William and was looking for him when he found him lying on North Eighth Street. Kyle admitted he had been driving an SUV, but told police it was parked in the alley when he found his brother.
By contrast, the surveillance video showed William Risko was hanging onto the driver’s side of the SUV Kyle was driving when Kyle pulled out of an alley and headed south on North Eighth. William then fell. Kyle stopped the car, then backed up, crushing William’s head. Kyle stopped again, then pulled forward, turned around in a driveway, and facing north, got out of the car next to William’s body. He then got back in and drove the SUV back into the alley. Five minutes later, Kyle called 911 and reported a hit and run. He returned and stayed with the body until police arrived.
Mancuso said the DA’s office was obligated to file charges against Kyle Risko because of his actions after he hit his brother. But what about Kyle’s actions before the tragic accident? He admitted drinking but, because he wasn’t a suspect at the time, police didn’t pursue his blood alcohol content. Maybe Kyle Risko’s initial version of events came from substance-induced confusion.
The charges Kyle Risko plead to carry a maximum sentence of nine years and $20,000 in fines. The DA’s office will recommend probation, Mancuso said, noting “where you have an unintended homicide and the victim is a blood relation, you do have to take that into account.”
Of course, the Risko family, from New Jersey, is devastated. But this case involves much more than a family’s double tragedy — one son dead, the other responsible and, presumably, feeling overwhelming remorse. Kyle Risko was the driver. A judge might not be so kind in deciding what price he pays for his actions both before and after William Risko’s grisly death.