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Judge nixes lighter sentence for Masontown man in crash death

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

A Fayette County judge rejected a Masontown man's plea offer in a homicide by vehicle case because the proposed sentence fell 15 days short of the standard minimum sentence.

James Farrier, 52, of 117 Shortcut Road, Masontown, is charged with homicide by vehicle in the Jan. 13, 2012, death of his sister, Crystal D. Farrier.

Crystal Farrier was a rear-seat passenger in a car driven by her brother on Nov. 2, 2011 when it traveled off New Salem Road, and hit a mailbox, state police said. The eastbound car then re-entered the road, crossed the center line and hit a westbound vehicle.

Crystal Farrier, 28, sustained a severe brain injury that left her in a coma, according to police. She died about two months later of complications from a motor vehicle accident, according to the Fayette County Coroner's Office.

Police said James Farrier and the driver of the other vehicle, Donna Wallace, 62, of Fairbank, sustained moderate injuries. Another passenger in Farrier's vehicle, Dawn Bryner, 35, of Smock, suffered minor injuries.

James Farrier was charged with homicide by vehicle when his toxicology tests indicated the presence of opiates and THC, a chemical in marijuana, in his blood.

Farrier told police he had taken a prescribed narcotic before driving and “blacked out” just before the crash, according to a police affidavit.

In exchange for a sentencing recommendation that called for a mitigated-range, minimum sentence of 8 12 months in jail, James Farrier pleaded guilty in December to homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence and related charges.

When he appeared before Judge John F. Wagner Jr. on Thursday for sentencing, Wagner rejected the plea because it was in the mitigated range, as opposed to the more-lengthy standard range.

“We know I'm not going to sentence in the mitigated range unless you have something astounding to say,” Wagner said.The standard sentencing range requires a minimum of nine months in jail, Eddy said. He did not negotiate the plea and was unable to say why the sentencing recommendation was in the mitigated range.

Wagner allowed James Farrier to withdraw his guilty pleas and ordered the case to trial.

Farrier is free on $5,000 unsecured bond.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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