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March 5, 2010 - Sentence to Driver in Crash No Relief to Families

A Fayette County, Pennsylvania, man will spend up to six years in prison for causing a vehicle accident that killed a man and left a teenager with brain damage, but the sentence was of little consolation to the victims' families.

"I could beat him up, and I would get the same sentence he got," said Don Bargiband, father of one of the victims, after a sentencing hearing Wednesday in Fayette County for Matthew Tyler Morse. "That's not justice to me."

The father of the other victim, Bill Basinger of Scottdale, expressed similar sentiments.

"To me, it doesn't matter," Basinger said. "It's not going to change anything."

Morse, 21, formerly of Connellsville, was sentenced yesterday to three to six years in state prison after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, speeding, careless driving and reckless driving.

Brandon Bargiband, 16, of Scottdale and 20-year-old Joshua B. Basinger of Connellsville were passengers in Morse's 2004 Chevy Cavalier when it slammed into a Toyota 4Runner at 7:48 a.m. May 7, 2008, on North Gate Highway, also known as Toll Route 43, in North Union.

Basinger died of head injuries later that day at Ruby Memorial Hospital in West Virginia. Brandon Bargiband suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to Assistant District Attorney Doug Sepic. Family members yesterday said Brandon Bargiband is in a skilled nursing facility, where he is unable to care for himself or communicate with his family.

"That 14-year-old boy who was in your car that day is no more," Brandon's mother, Deann Bargiband of Scottdale, testified during hearing. "He died that day."

State police said Morse was traveling 92 mph in a 35 mph zone when his car collided with the SUV driven by Paul L. Kania Sr., 42, of Smock. Police said Kania was turning left from a stop sign at Old Pittsburgh Road when Morse's speeding Cavalier hit the front of his SUV.

Kania sustained a broken leg in the crash. Two children, Paul L. Kania Jr., then 6, and Ann C. Kania, then 3, suffered minor injuries.

Some of the victims' family members alleged Morse showed no remorse after the crash.

In a statement before the sentencing, Morse apologized. He said his attorneys advised him not to make any statements before sentencing.

"Brandon is a concern to me," Morse said. "I'm sorry."

Morse had expected to be sentenced to two to four years on the charges, as per a plea bargain he entered into earlier this month. The plea offer was changed to three to six years yesterday morning after prosecutors learned the charges carried a higher offense gravity score than had been initially determined.

Senior Judge Conrad B. Capuzzi said regardless of the new determination, he had no intention of sentencing Morse to just two to four years because it was in the mitigated sentencing range. The sentence of three to six years was in the standard range, he said.

Capuzzi sentenced Morse to one to two years for the involuntary manslaughter and three to six years on the aggravated assault. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

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