Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Plea Deal Reached In Navien Case

The man accused of killing a Georgetown student while driving drunk on a Massachusetts highway in 2005 pleaded guilty Wednesday to motor-vehicle homicide and was sentenced to three to five years in state prison.

Paul Mscisz, 30, of Haverhill, Mass., accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors before a judge in Salem Superior Court in Salem, ass., on the day he was scheduled to begin standing trial for manslaughter for the death of rising School of Foreign Service sophomore Matthew Navien.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious charge of manslaughter if Mscisz pleaded guilty to motor- vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of liquor and driving recklessly, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. The sentence issued Wednesday was the result of a joint agreement between prosecutors and Mscisz’s attorney.

As part of his plea deal, Mscisz also forfeited his right to apply for a renewal of his driver’s license for 15 years. The year and a half he spent in custody while the case developed will count toward his overall prison sentence, which begins immediately, prosecutors said.

Mscisz will not be eligible for parole until he has served three years of the sentence. His attorney, Michael Bowser, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Steve O’Connell, a spokesman for the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, said that prosecutors and Navien’s relatives had been in close contact throughout the legal proceedings and were satisfied with the deal reached Wednesday.

“We are satisfied with the resolution. . The negotiations [with Mscisz’s attorney] were extensive,” he said. “The family of the victim was extremely gracious.”

Charges were first filed against Mscisz on June 21, 2005, three days after the early-morning car crash near North Andover, Mass., which left Navien, 19, unconscious with extensive head injuries when paramedics arrived.

Navien, an honors student, Eagle Scout and member of Georgetown’s ROTC program who friends said dreamed of becoming a diplomat, had been driving home after watching a movie at a friend’s house. He was declared dead at Lawrence General Hospital soon after the crash.

Police seeking to interview Mscisz at the hospital after the crash said they smelled alcohol on his person, and tests after the crash showed that Mscisz had a blood alcohol level above assachusetts’ legal limit, according to court filings. Witnesses interviewed by police said that Mscisz had been driving erratically before he struck Navien’s car, a police accident report said.

Navien’s mother, Susan Navien, said that she would have preferred a harsher sentence.

“I think they did what they could. . our main concern was that he not drive, that that was the best way to prevent more tragedies,” she said. “I think a lot of people will be outraged that the sentence seems pretty light, but that’s the way our laws are written.”

Had the case gone to trial as scheduled Wednesday, Mscisz would have faced a charge of manslaughter and two counts of motor-vehicle homicide. He would have faced a cumulative maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.

Susan Navien said that she saw advantages and drawbacks to Wednesday’s agreement.

“I think it’s good and bad,” she said. “On the one hand I don’t want to have to sit through a trial. On the other hand a trial would probably attract more attention and perhaps deter other people from drinking and driving.”

Navien’s friends at Georgetown also had mixed reactions to news of the plea agreement. Lizzie Forster (SFS ’07), who served with Navien in the university’s ROTC program, said that as a devout Catholic, Navien would not have wanted a harsh sentence.

“Matt is the kind of person who forgives people,”Forster said. “It’s not something Matt would have wanted. He wouldn’t have wanted to ruin his life.”

Still, Forster said Mscisz should have received a longer prison sentence, although she was satisfied with the driving restriction the court had imposed.

“It’s almost absurd to go from 20 to what is basically a year and a half,” she said. “For all intents and purposes, he’s going to get his life back, with an inconvenience, but we’re not going to get Matt back.”

Steve Thomas (COL ’08), also an ROTC cadet at Georgetown, said that he was disappointed with the length of the sentence.

“The guilty plea is somewhat satisfying in that he finally admitted what he did,” Thomas said. “I’m glad for att’s family that it’s finally over.”

Susan Navien said that although the immediate legal proceedings have concluded, her family plans to participate in Mscisz’s future parole hearings and is considering a civil suit against the bar where he had been on the night of the crash.

“In empty chairs and unopened books, an empty Christmas stocking and other poignant souvenirs, there is a gaping hole in our family,” she said Wednesday in an impact statement she made to the court before Mscisz’s sentence was handed down.

But despite the lingering sadness, Navien’s family continues to cherish the memories of his life, she added in the statement.

“Though we do not understand, we trust that whatever God’s purpose for our Matt was – or is – it was accomplished in his 19 years here with us,” she said. “We were blessed with his presence and appreciate the gift that he was.”

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