By Antoinette Vega
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON A jury of six women and six men deliberated more than five hours Wednesday before sentencing Bradley L. Swint Jr. to five years in prison.
The San Antonio man pleaded guilty Monday to an intoxication manslaughter charge in connection with a fatal automobile accident in Killeen on Nov. 29, 2003, that killed the 47-year-old Helen Mack of Tennessee.
The jury had the choice of sentencing Swint to up to 20 years in prison or giving him probation.
After the verdict was read, Swint, 21, hung his head, while members of his family sobbed silently.
Members of the Mack family waited until they were outside the courtroom before showing any emotion. Tanisha Mack, Helen Mack's 25-year-old daughter, let out a loud cry as the family was led to the elevator by Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Franklin.
Swint will have to serve at least half of the sentence.
According to a witness report, Swint was driving the wrong way in the eastbound lanes in the 3900 block of East U.S. Highway 190 around 5 a.m. Nov. 29, when his silver Pontiac Grand Am allegedly ran head-on into a blue Chrysler Town and Country minivan.
Eight people, ranging in ages from 3 to 51 and all from Memphis, Tenn., were riding in the minivan,
The jury Tuesday heard closing arguments by Swint's attorney, Tom Seigman, and by Franklin.
Franklin asked the jury to use its verdict to make a statement to society about drunk drivers.
"We have to take a stand. Helen Mack's death will accomplish nothing if you don't do something," Franklin said. "You have to ignore the devastation to give him probation."
Seigman told the jury that Swint has changed since the day of the accident.
"Bradley Swint who committed this crime is not the same person," Seigman said. "He is a good man who made a horrible decision."
Swint told the jury Tuesday that the night before the accident, he had been drinking two to three beers and more than one tequila shot but does not remember getting into the car the next morning.
"I was driving, and I saw a car pass me, and I said to myself, 'I am going the wrong way,'" Swint testified Tuesday. "Then I saw another set of lights. That is all I remember."
Swint is also facing two intoxication assault charges for injuries to Angelica Irby, 11, who suffered two broken legs and a broken pelvis, and Tanisha Mack, whose leg was broken in the accident.
District Attorney Henry Garza said the decision has not been made whether to pursue the other charges.
"We will look at it when we are able to make a decision in the future," Garza said.
The other passengers, who were all friends or relatives of the other victims, were treated and released.
Swint, who had a blood alcohol level of .24, suffered minor injuries.
At the end of the trial, Judge Rick Morris said the trial was one of the most emotional ones he has seen.
"In my 16 years as a district judge, I have only seen a handful of cases quite as emotional as this one," Morris said.
Contact Antoinette Vega at firstname.lastname@example.org