SPRINGFIELD — A judge on Tuesday found Ryan Pezzini of Westfield guilty of involuntary manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol.
His lawyer spent most of the trial trying to prove how incredibly drunk Pezzini was at the time of the crash. Pezzini’s blood alcohol content was almost four times the legal limit.
Pezzini, 27, was convicted for the death of 68-year-old David Matyseck, whose truck Pezzini collided with on Nov. 8, 2016, in Westfield.
The minimum mandatory sentence for the crime is five years in state prison, but the sentence can be up to 20 years. Hampden Superior Court Judge Mark D. Mason set sentencing for Oct. 30 at 9 a.m.
Matyseck left his wife of 43 years, two children and four grandsons, as well as other relatives. One side of the large courtroom was filled with about 30 family members and friends of Matyseck.
About a dozen family members and friends of Pezzini were on the other side of the aisle in the jury-waived trial that lasted all day Tuesday.
Pezzini has been free while awaiting trial, with conditions including that he not drive, obey a curfew between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and refrain from alcohol use. He was handcuffed and taken into custody Tuesday when Mason revoked his bail.
Defense lawyer Michael O. Jennings said if Pezzini had been charged with motor vehicle homicide, the case would have ended in a plea a year and a half ago. That crime carries a lighter potential sentence.
Jennings said the prosecution instead chose to charge Pezzini under the law of manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Pezzini’s blood alcohol content was somewhere between 0.306 and 0.325 percent an hour after the crash, when blood was drawn as he was treated for minor injuries. Jennings said Pezzini was too drunk to form the necessary intent required for manslaughter under the law.
The defense had one witness, Robert H. Powers, an assistant professor of forensic science and forensic toxicology at the University of New Haven.
Powers, who said he usually testifies for the prosecution, said Pezzini was too drunk to appropriately asses the risk his actions posed to himself and others.
Evidence was that a red light Pezzini ran just prior to the crash had been red for some time, and three other cars had pulled onto Route 20 at Delmont Avenue ahead of Matyseck’s Toyota Tacoma truck when they had a green light.
Powers said Pezzini, in the crash shortly after 7:30 p.m., was too drunk to process the information that his light was red and cars were entering the road on their green light.
State Trooper Thomas Fisk testified there were no skid marks indicating Pezzini tried to stop, and that a store surveillance camera that captured the crash showed Pezzini’s Volkswagen Passat did not have brake lights on.
Assistant District Attorney James M. Forsyth said Pezzini was charged with manslaughter while under the influence of liquor because his actions went beyond negligence, which is allowed as a reason for conviction under the crime of motor vehicle homicide.
He said the manslaughter charge here alleged Pezzini committed the crime with reckless behavior, not just negligence.
Pezzini, in addition to being found guilty of the manslaughter count, was convicted of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. Prosecutors said he ran into another car in Westfield before he drove to the intersection where the fatal crash happened.
Charlotte Oleksak testified she was hit from behind by a car on Route 20. She said she got out and approached the driver, who would not answer her questions and stayed in the car.
“I said, ‘You are drunk, get out of the car,'” she said.
Pezzini asked her to move her car out of the road, but instead of pulling over when she did that, he drove off and shortly thereafter hit Matyseck’s truck.
Sabrina Liberty, testifying through tears, said she was in her car when she saw Pezzini collide with the truck, spinning it around and landing it in front of her car.
She went to check on the truck’s driver and saw the side “all smashed in.”
The penalty for motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of an intoxicating substance is much less than for manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol.
State law sets the penalty for motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol at state prison for not less than two and one-half years or more than 15 years, or a house of correction sentence of not less than one year nor more than two and one-half years.
The defendant previously was known as Ryan Pasquini-Pezzini, but his lawyer told Mason his name is now formally Ryan Pezzini.