Legally blind Leechburg man sentenced in death of pedestrian

by: Chuck Biedka, TribLIVE Updated:

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LEECHBURG, Pa. - A legally blind Leechburg man who was driving a truck when he struck and killed a pedestrian in 2012 will serve less than two months in jail.

(This article was written by Chuck Biedka, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

Michael P. Shaley, 59, of Morgan Drive was sentenced on Tuesday to serve six months to two years for the death of Linda A. Lucchino, 64, of Leechburg.

But Armstrong County Judge Kenneth G. Valasek ordered Shaley to serve 45 days of his sentence in the county jail and the balance at home on electronic monitoring.

Shaley must pay a $500 fine, $50 a month supervision fee while on probation, and $1 to the victim's estate. Judge Valasek noted that Lucchino's survivors have hired an attorney to file a civil lawsuit against Shaley and his car insurance company.

Shaley was driving a borrowed pickup truck on Oct. 6, 2012, when he struck Lucchino, who was walking along the 400 block of Third Street in Leechburg.

After she was hit, Lucchino had surgery, was put on life support, and was in a nursing home when she died on Dec. 11.

A family member said Lucchino's family had hoped Shaley should serve three months in jail — to match the time she lingered in a hospital and nursing home until she died.

"He just really had poor judgment and that poor judgment took our Linda from us," said the victim's cousin Sallie Lucchino.

Shaley was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, careless and reckless driving and aggravated and simple assault. But in a plea agreement, Shaley pleaded guilty on March 7 to homicide by vehicle and the other charges were “nolle prossed,” or not prosecuted further. (CLICK HERE to read the previous story.)

In a statement read before sentencing, Lucchino's cousins said Shaley's decision to drive even though he knew he couldn't see well was a “careless and egregious act.”

Lucchino, a retired Apollo-Ridge School District librarian, was well known in Leechburg. She was known for helping people, was in the choir at Christ The King parish and taught Catholic education classes.

The family called for Shaley to serve jail time to show the importance of a life and that a “careless, irresponsible act in a moment can forever change life as we know it.”

Lucchino would have turned 66 this month.

Defense attorney Daniel Joseph said Shaley and Lucchino were both good people who helped others and Shaley had no prior convictions.

“No doctor told him to turn in his license and no doctor called PennDOT,” Joseph argued. “They told him he will know when it's time to stop driving.”

Joseph called several character witnesses to testify on behalf of Shaley. All said Shaley is a good person who helps others.

Frank Pinto Jr. of Ford City testified he has known Shaley as a friend and sometimes coworker for 40 years.“He has always been hard-working and I have never seen him drink or do drugs,” Pinto testified. “When people need help, he was always there.”

Valasek took the character witness testimony into account when considering the sentence but said Shaley showed “recklessness, not simply carelessness,” by deciding to drive when he knew he shouldn't.

(Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.)