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Heatley gets probation for fatal crash



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He faced 20 years in prison in the death of teammate Dan Snyder.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Graham Snyder lost his son when Atlanta Thrashers player Dany Heatley crashed a convertible while speeding on a winding road. The father asked a judge Friday not to compound that loss by putting Heatley in jail.

The judge honored the request, sentencing Heatley to three years' probation after he pleaded guilty to charges in the death of teammate Dan Snyder.

"Forgiveness in our hearts has helped us move on," Graham Snyder said. "We forgive because Dany has shown remorse to our family."

Judge Rowland Barnes acknowledged the father's support for Heatley, though he noted, "I don't know that I could do this if I were you."

Ordered to give talks

Heatley also was ordered to give 150 public speeches about the dangers of speeding. In exchange for his plea, the only felony charge -- first-degree vehicular homicide -- was dropped along with a charge of reckless driving.

"The mistake I made that night was driving too fast," Heatley said at his sentencing. "This mistake will stay with me the rest of my life."

Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding for the Sept. 29, 2003, crash in Atlanta.

Snyder's brother, Jake, also said he didn't want Heatley to go to jail or lose his hockey career.

"I know he never intended for this to happen," he said. "I don't want to see my friend go to prison. I know Dan would feel the same way."

Heatley, the MVP of the 2003 NHL All-Star game, was driving his Ferrari on a curved road in a residential area when it ran into a brick pillar and iron fence. Authorities said Heatley had consumed some alcohol but was not intoxicated. Snyder, a passenger, died after several days in a coma at 25.

Other conditions

Prosecutor Shondeana Crews said police found Heatley was driving at least 82 mph. Defense attorney Ed Garland said one expert thought Heatley was driving only 55 mph. The speed limit was 35 mph. The judge noted the discrepancies when agreeing to the plea.

Heatley must give at least 50 public speeches each year about the dangers of speeding -- nearly one speech a week. The speeches must be given at schools, colleges and public events attended by young people. He also cannot drive except for work and medical purposes or for going to the grocery store or to his speeches.

The judge said the court will have to approve the car Heatley drives. The car cannot have more than six cylinders and will have a mechanism to prevent it from exceeding 70 mph.

District attorney Paul Howard called the sentence fair.

"This was a traffic-related incident," he said. "It was not an intentional incident."

If the case went to trial and Heatley was convicted on all six counts, the 24-year-old would have faced up to 20 years in prison and fines totaling $5,000. On the four charges to which he pleaded guilty, he would have faced a maximum of four years in jail. Defense lawyers believe the plea allows Heatley, a Canadian citizen, to avoid any threat of deportation, and therefore not affect his ability to play in the NHL. Prosecutors, however, said there is no guarantee.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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