DUI death brings 10 years

A MySpace post shows lack of remorse, judge says.A MySpace posting outweighs a plea for leniency.

By Jose Cardenas, Times Staff Writer
Published February 27, 2008

CLEARWATER - Four months after he drove drunk, crashed into a tree and killed his friend, Joseph Edward Eagan drank at a Halloween party and posted party photos on his MySpace page.

On Tuesday, that act outweighed Eagan's sobbing plea for leniency last month.

"That is not a record of remorse," Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley said.

And with that, Ley sentenced Eagan to 10 years and four months in prison for driving under the influence manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old Andrew Garcia.

Garcia, who lived in Palm Harbor, was a popular St. Petersburg College student whose funeral was attended by hundreds.

Eagan and Garcia spent the evening of June 1, 2006, at the Innisbrook Resort. After midnight, Eagan got behind the wheel of a 2001 Acura Integra with Garcia in the passenger's seat.

As Eagan headed south on Mill Pond Road, he lost control of the car and crashed into a tree.

His blood-alcohol level was 0.14 percent, nearly twice the level at which Florida law presumes a driver to be impaired.

During a court hearing in January, attorney George Tragos asked Ley for a lighter sentence than the 10 years recommended by state guidelines.

Besides the remorse, Tragos argued that the crime was an isolated incident committed in an unsophisticated manner. But Ley said she thought Eagan was tearful primarily because he was terrified to go to prison.

On Tuesday, Eagan's family showed Ley a newspaper article about a different case in which drunken driver Richard Abramowicz killed a bicyclist in St. Petersburg and fled. Last month, Abramowicz, 26, got five years in prison and 10 years of probation.

In response, Ley said she did not know what negotiations had occurred in the other case.

"I feel no joy in sentencing him to prison, but he had the burden of proving remorse," she said.

Eagan had been free on his own recognizance pending sentencing. As deputies led him away, he turned his head to his family. His mother, Pamela Eagan, wept loudly.

Outside in the courthouse hallway, surrounded by family and friends, Garcia's mother and sister, Rose and Melissa Athas, also wept loudly.

Jose Cardenas can be reached at jcardenas@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224.