WILKES-BARRE – Michael Polinchak's life was damaged irrevocably by his wife's death when she was struck by her car with a drunken tow truck driver at the wheel in March 2011.
But Polinchak said Friday he takes solace in knowing Robert Wickham faces jail time for causing the fatal accident.
"The wheels of justice are slow but true," Polinchak said of a jury of six men and six women convicting Wickham on Friday of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence and two counts of DUI. "I'm so relieved … I'm thankful. Justice prevailed."
Wickham was convicted of the charges after a jury deliberated for two and a half hours over a two-day period.
He faces a mandatory three to six years in prison at the Nov. 2 sentencing.
"We're extremely disappointed," Wickham's attorney, Tom Marsilio, said of the jury's verdict. "We're going to seek to have it overturned."
Marsilio, representing Wickham with attorney Larry Kansky, said Wickham has remained stoic throughout the trial.
Marsilio said every successful appeal begins with a conviction and that he and Kansky are confident they have valid arguments.
Marsilio cited the defective vehicle Wickham was to tow from the parking lot of the Social Security Administration building on March 7, 2011, and that Wickham's blood-alcohol content of .114 percent, well above the state's legal limit for driving of .08 percent, was a "speculative" factor in the case.
"Finally, Denise Polinchak is getting the justice she deserves," said Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake, who prosecuted the case with fellow ADA Rebecca Reimiller.
Crake and Reimiller said the verdict shows the jury saw the case their way.
The prosecutors said the entire case was based on Polinchak's vehicle failure – that was the reason Wickham was there to tow her vehicle – and that Wickham was aware there was a brake problem.
Wickham testified Thursday he was never told why the car needed to be towed and only later learned of the brake problem.
Wickham's impairment from alcohol contributed to accident, prosecutors said.
"(The jury's verdict) shows the community is sick of accidents (involving drinking and driving)," Crake said. "We've had a disturbing summer … with similar cases."
Judge Joseph Sklarosky denied prosecutors' request that Wickham's $25,000 bail be revoked and he be jailed.
Sklarosky said Wickham may remain free but must wear a monitoring bracelet and will be supervised.
"I'll tell you right now … if there is a drop of alcohol in your system, your bail is revoked," Sklarosky warned Wickham.
Michael Polinchak said Friday his wife's death and Wickham's trial are the most difficult things he's ever gone through, and he now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and has lost his job.
Attorney Bill Anzalone, who represents Polinchak in a civil action against Wickham, Wickham's former employer Herbert's Towing and AAA Mid-Atlantic, through whom Wickham was dispatched to assist Polinchak, said Friday a lawsuit is moving forward.
"You can never repair a loss, but today, justice was obtained," Anzalone said, noting the civil suit could likely reach a jury trial by next year.
In the suit, Polinchak is requesting more than $50,000 in damages as a result of his wife's death.