A suburban New York man who allowed his unlicensed 15-year-old daughter to drive an SUV that crashed in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, killing three of her friends, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.Michael Ware, 54, was given a lengthy sentence partly because he lied to investigators about giving his daughter the keys, allowing her to shoulder all the blame for the crash.Wayne County President Judge Ray Hamill branded his behavior 'reckless, stupid and selfish.'
He blasted him asking: 'What kind of father does this?'
The crash on August 30, 2014, killed Ryan Lesher, Shamus Digney and Cullen Keffer, all 15-year-old sophomores at Council Rock High School in suburban Philadelphia. Three others were hurt.
Ware, who pleaded guilty last month to three counts each of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, apologized in a brief statement.
'I cannot begin to say how sorry I am,' Ware, of Scarsdale, told the judge. 'Neither I nor my daughter meant any harm to anyone day. May those boys rest in peace.'
His words rang hollow to the parents of the dead teens. They spoke in court of their pain and their anger toward Ware, who had allowed his daughter to drive on several occasions before the crash, including from New York to their vacation home in Pennsylvania.Hamill, his voice rising, repeatedly called Ware's actions 'preventable, irresponsible, reckless, stupid and selfish' and said he had failed as a father.Ware's lawyer, Robert Reno, had asked for a sentence of 12 to 23 months. Outside court, he called the sentence 'ridiculous' and said there would be an appeal.
Prosecutors said Ware allowed his daughter to drive his Chevrolet Suburban from their Paupack Township home with one of her friends. She then picked up four boys and drove to a restaurant for breakfast. On the way back, the teen lost control of the SUV and flipped it.
'Your desire to be the cool dad devastated an entire community,' said Ryan's mother, Lisa Lesher
'He basically gave his daughter a gun and put the bullets in it for her,' said Wilson Black, Shamus' uncle.
It wasn't until two months later that one of the passengers came forward and told police that Ware had given his daughter the keys.
Ware's daughter acknowledged responsibility in juvenile court to vehicular homicide counts and was placed on indefinite probation.
She also was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, pay restitution and write a 2,000-word essay on the impact of her crime.
The victims' parents said Ware was not only responsible for their sons' deaths but had also wrecked his daughter's life.
'You gave her too much independence, too soon,' said Joe Keffer, Cullen's father. 'You failed to protect her.'