Friends, family of cyclist pack courtroom for sentencing
Family and friends of a Hopwood bicyclist killed by a drunken motorist in 2011 filled two rows of a Fayette County courtroom Friday as the driver was sentenced to serve six months on probation.
In November, Gustavo A. Palmar, 53, of 107 Belmont Circle pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence in the Nov. 2 accident that killed Parrish Robert George, 19.
Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon imposed the sentence, which is the mandatory minimum for a first-time drunken driving offense, according to the district attorney's office.
Family members, who have openly decried the sentence, remained silent during the short proceeding.
Outside the courtroom, they reiterated their dissatisfaction and announced plans to file a civil lawsuit against Palmar.
“How can you get six months probation and no loss of license? What if it was one of their loved ones?” asked Caitlyn George, Parrish George's sister.
“Justice was not served. I don't think my brother will rest until justice is served,” she said.
Police said George was northbound on Beeson Avenue and Palmar was eastbound on Fayette Street when George and the bicycle fell over just before the collision, and the bicycle slid underneath Palmar's sport utility vehicle. Two witnesses reported Palmar had a green light.
Before another court appearance by Palmar in July, George's family and friends stood outside the county courthouse bearing signs with the message “Justice 4 Parrish,” in an effort to draw attention to their quest to have more serious charges filed.
“The family is just sad and depressed the courts did not do justice for Parrish,” said Gregory Clark, who said he was George's uncle.
“We want to let it be known that you can't do this and it will be OK. They are saying it's OK to drink and drive,” Caitlyn George said. “I want justice for my brother. We are not going to stop, that is for sure.”
Parrish George Sr. said the family will pursue the matter with a civil suit.
Pittsburgh attorney Austin P. Henry said Friday that a lawsuit will be filed against Palmar within two weeks with the Fayette County Prothonotary's office.
“Obviously we are limited in that context to (seeking) monetary damages,” Henry said. “It was quite a surprise on the criminal side, how mild the charges were. My job is to work the civil side, and that is what we are doing.”
District Attorney Jack Heneks has said that charges were limited to the DUI because an accident reconstruction did not show gross negligence or reckless conduct on Palmar's part.
Palmar's blood-alcohol content after the accident was 0.093 percent, according to court testimony. Under state law, a motorist is considered to be intoxicated at 0.08 percent.
Heneks said Friday that Palmar's content was below the limit — 0.10 percent — at which a first-time drunken driver can have his license suspended.
Heneks said he reviewed evidence and photographs of the accident scene with Uniontown city police before declining to file additional charges.
“We determined there was no criminal negligence in this case,” Heneks said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org