WILKES-BARRE — A hit-and-run case that set off a six-year legal odyssey finally came to an end Friday when Daniel Loughnane pleaded guilty to a count of involuntary manslaughter.
Loughnane, 46, of Hanover Township, will serve house arrest as part of his sentence.
He was expected to go on trial starting Monday for the 2012 death of Rebecca McCallick, 19. He ran her over on his way home from the former Gentleman’s Club 10 while she was lying in Hazle Street on July 24, 2012. Prosecutors say he fled the scene. McCallick allegedly had marijuana in her system at the time of her death.
Prosecutors agreed to amend Loughnane’s original charge, a felony count of accidents involving death, to a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a far lighter sentence.
Loughnane agreed to a sentence of 12 months in the Intermediate Punishment Program. The first month will be spent on house arrest. While Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough did have the ability to give him a different sentence, he immediately implemented the suggested sentence.
But he told Loughnane he would immediately send him to prison should he violate the IPP, which typically includes electronic monitoring, intensive probation supervision and community service.
Victim’s mom speaks
Before he was sentenced, McCallick’s mother, Judy Pribula, spoke briefly about the impact her daughter’s death has had on her family.
“If he had stopped and rendered aid,” she said tearfully, “I don’t know if she would’ve lived, but I would’ve been there to see her and to comfort her. And that’s my right as a mother if my child died before me.
“And he took that right from me,” she went on.
Pribula referenced the lengthy time the case was languishing in the legal system.
“We waited six years, two months and 19 days for this,” she said. “He thinks it’s over, but it’s not, because he’s gonna die some day and he’s gonna have to answer to God.”
Loughnane didn’t answer to Pribula, though; he declined to say anything before the court.
Friday’s guilty plea comes after a lengthy process involving a series of appeals involving Loughnane’s truck. Prosecutors were dealt a blow after the Superior Court ruled his pickup truck was seized illegally by Wilkes-Barre police. That blow was worsened after Vough ruled that much of the evidence obtained from the truck was inadmissible due to the illegal seizure.
Loughnane’s attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski, said he believes the guilty plea is a good resolution for all sides.
“Rebecca’s mom now has some finality to this whole situation,” he said. “I also think the agreement was a big benefit to Mr. Loughnane, who can now move forward with his life.”
Olszewski said the decision made by the Superior Court helped his case immensely, along with some of the other evidence the defense team managed to block from trial.
While Loughnane did not speak for himself, Olszewski said his client is remorseful for what happened to McCallick.
The attorney says Loughnane plans to be a “good, productive member of our society” — his sentence allows him to continue working during his punishment. He will also be allowed to have custody exchanges with his son.
First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said McCallick’s family was looking for a resolution.
“The prime motivator was the best interest of the family,” Sanguedolce said about the guilty plea. “For the family to have to live through a trial, I think it was — they expressed to us that they wanted the case resolved.”
Sanguedolce said the previous court decision on the truck’s seizure presented a challenge, but prosecutors had figured out some ways to work around it.
He noted that McCallick’s family is just happy that the legal process is over, and now the family will be able to grieve in peace.
Loughnane walked out of court without a word. He was ordered by Vough to report today to the county probation office.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan.