Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Driver Found Guilty of Lesser Charges in Death of Man

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Driver Found Guilty of Lesser Charges in Death of Man

Article excerpt

Jeff Barva-Hamlin offered to plead guilty to homicide by vehicle after he struck and killed a man on Liberty Avenue last year.

But Lisa Middleman, his public defender, said Wednesday that the plea was rejected by the Allegheny County district attorney's office because prosecutors wanted her client to serve time in state prison.

"They thought they could prove intent," she said.

So the case this week went to a jury trial, and after about five hours of deliberations Wednesday, Mr. Barva-Hamlin was found not guilty of first- and third-degree murder as well as voluntary manslaughter.

Instead, the jury found him guilty of the lesser counts of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.

He will be sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski. Ms. Middleman told the court that she thought the standard guideline range for the charges would be months of incarceration -- not years.

The maximum Mr. Barva-Hamlin, 28, would face on the homicide by vehicle, which is a third-degree felony, is three-and-a-half to seven years.

"Sometimes, an accident is an accident," Ms. Middleman told the jury during her closings Tuesday afternoon. "Sometimes, people don't make the best choices, but are they criminal choices?"

The incident began around noon on March 30, 2013, when Mr. Barva- Hamlin, who was outside his girlfriend's home on Fisk Street, got into an argument with Chad Vida, 40, of Etna.

According to testimony, Vida insulted the LAW motorcycle club, to which Mr. Barva-Hamlin belongs. He was wearing a jacket with the club's colors that day.

A short time later, Mr. Barva-Hamlin, his girlfriend and her 5- year-old son got in a Kia Sportage SUV and left. They caught up with Vida a short time later, and Mr. Barva-Hamlin pulled over, exited the car and continued the earlier argument.

At some point, though, Mr. Barva-Hamlin, who had a firearm and has a license to carry a concealed weapon, testified that he decided to get back in the car to leave. …

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