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Man sentenced to 10-year probation for student's death

Feb. 1, 2001

Caffey's father delivers statement after sentencing

By JOHN HALL

Staff writer

The man convicted of a failure-to-stop-and-render-aid charge in connection with last year's death of student Malisa Caffey was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years probation, including 90 days in a county jail and six months to a year in an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

The sentencing came 15 days after Patrick Franklin Fischel pleaded guilty after reaching a plea bargain of five years probation. If he violates his probation, he will have to serve five years in a state penitentiary.

Caffey, a freshman at the time, was leaving a Kappa Kappa Gamma-Kappa Omega Tau mixer on Jan. 19, 2000, when she was hit by Fischel's truck at the intersection of Bagby Avenue and Ninth Street. She died at the scene.

Crawford Long, first assistant district attorney in the 54th District, said the issue was whether Fischel could be sentenced to probation for more than five years for the charge. He said the Caffey family expressed satisfaction with the sentence.

Russ Hunt Sr., Fischel's attorney, said he was not surprised by the sentence because, in his experience, the maximum time of probation is given but reduced later if someone complies with probation.

54th -District Court Judge George Allen, who sentenced Fischel, said he added the time in a state rehabilitation facility because police said Fischel was drinking when they arrested him.

Two hours after Fischel pleaded guilty on Jan. 16, his blood alcohol level was shown to be .06 percent, .02 percent below the legal limit; The body burns .02 percent blood alcohol content per hour, meaning Fischel was legally intoxicated when he pleaded guilty, Hunt said.

After the sentencing, Caffey's father gave a statement from the family to the defendant.

'Our goal has always been not about vengeance, but about justice -- for you to be held accountable for your actions. For that reason we asked the court for you to receive five years of probation. We have given you a five-year window to prove yourself. Your fate hangs on your actions. You can change and stay out of prison. It is up to you.

'However, from our hearts, we hope you don't. We hope you violate the terms of this probation and that this good judge or one just like him sentences you to five years in the Texas Prison System -- a sentence we believe you richly deserve. We hope this happens before another family goes through what our family continues to endure.

'While our God is a forgiving God, he is also an awesome god, one you should fear. He holds your ultimate accountability. From the bottom of our souls, we hope you repent of your ways, that you stop the path you are on, that you find God and salvation, and that some day your get to hug Malisa in heaven. We also hope you do so before you hit someone else.'

Hunt said he believed Fischel will comply with his probation.

'I would be real surprised if he doesn't complete his probation in exemplary fashion,' Hunt said. 'I think he's scared to death and does not want to go to prison.'

The Caffey family said they wanted Fischel to express his remorse for the incident.

'Reading about your remorse in the paper from quotes of you lawyer really does not satisfy the obligation,' the statement said.

Hunt said he told Fischel not to talk to anyone about the incident. Hunt said his client expressed his remorse several times, but Hunt did not want anything Fischel said to the family to work against him.

The family's statement also emphasized the pain the family said it is experiencing as a result of Caffey's death.

'It has devastated us. I don't know what hell holds for those who do not choose salvation, but I can't describe to you the living hell on earth that my family has experienced since Malisa's death.'

That statement detailed the unrecognizable state of Caffey's body at the scene of the crime and spoke of the effect her death had on each member of her family, including her grandmother's choice to not fight her cancer with 'the vigor she has had all her life because she is ready to join 'her Malisa.''

The Caffey family expressed gratitude for the good memories they had of Malisa Caffey, but said they were saddened by the events they will miss.

'We are blessed with nearly 20 years of wonderful memories of Malisa. And for that we are truly thankful. But we think of the memories we will be denied. Malisa had already planned her wedding. An event in the country by a pond where she would be in her beautiful bridal gown barefoot.... What an opportunity we will miss. Malisa had already picked out names for her children, our grandchildren we will never get to love, hold, and teach. By the way, our grandchildren's name were going to be Autumn, Easton and Austin.'

Long said the statement is representative of the mindset of many families of victims. 'I think every victim's parent is of two minds. One hopes he changes his life and the other doesn't think he will.'

from SENTENCING page 1