No jail time for UMass Dartmouth student involved in fatal hit-and-run

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By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer

Eric Megna, a former UMass Dartmouth student, received sentencing last week after striking and killing a bicyclist back in 2013. Not only did he flee the scene, he concocted a fake alibi about hitting a deer.

The now 21-year-old man will serve eighteen months of a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a house of corrections after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of death.

Seems like a pretty short sentence, right? It gets worse. The balance of the sentence is suspended for two years with probation. In other words, the judge delayed the sentence in order for him to perform a period of probation. Typically, if the defendant doesn’t break the law or violate his probation in any way during that period of time, the judge will dismiss the sentence.

The crash happened almost four years ago on Oct. 11, 2013, as Megna was driving home from UMass Dartmouth to Middleboro. He struck and killed 58-year-old Michael Dutra, who was riding his bicycle.

Instead of stopping, he fled to his family’s vacation home in New Hampshire.

“Megna spent several days there before he reported to New Hampshire State Police that he had struck a deer while driving home on Route 93,” the district attorney’s office said. Megna then sent his mother a picture of a dead deer, and she showed it to detectives.

The police determined that Megna downloaded the picture from the internet, and there was no evidence of fur or deer remains on his car to confirm his story. There were, however, missing pieces and paint chips of Megna’s Jeep at the scene, and Dutra’s DNA on the shattered windshield. State Police arrested him about forty days after the crash.

My initial reaction was that the sentence is way too lenient. This kid killed the father of two daughters, leaving him to die alone in the road. He made up a fake story like a coward, and did not take responsibility for his actions. I also don’t understand how he actually thought he would get away with it.

I do believe a two-and-a-half-year sentence is pretty typical for non-negligent vehicular homicide, and for leaving the scene of death, but I would think that fabricating an alibi on top of his already criminal act makes the situation even more extreme.

And, assuming the sentence gets dismissed in a couple of years, the Dutra family may not get the healing and closure that they want and deserve. I could understand if he served between eighteen months and two-and-a-half years, but it should be immediate. He shouldn’t have the chance to get out of it this easily.

But, the more I think about it, this is clearly about a kid who was scared, nervous, and had no idea what else to do. He must have made up the story about hitting the deer in a panic, and fled to New Hampshire because it seemed like his only option. I would have panicked too, of course.

However, to keep that story going so far as to file a crash report and find a picture of a dead deer on the internet, is absolute desperation and insanity. As anxious as any of us would be in that situation, taking responsibility is clearly the right thing to do. Wouldn’t you think fleeing and lying would just get you in more trouble?

I’m not a criminal justice major or law expert. From an ethical and moral standpoint, though, this sentencing is just ridiculous and unfair to Michael Dutra’s family.

Photo Courtesy: The Enterprise

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