Matthew Byank, whose pregnant 19-year-old fiancée Lauren M. Parris died when he crashed his motorcycle in Amagansett two years ago while fleeing from police, was sentenced 3 to 9 years in state prison on Wednesday, the maximum under the cap the judge promised when Byank pleaded guilty in May.
Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge C. Randall Hinrichs handed down the sentence following an emotional morning in court on Wednesday. Lauren's family chastised Byank for his carelessness and Byank told the judge he loved Lauren deeply and was sorry.
Byank, a 21-year-old from Mastic, with the court on May 9. In exchange, Judge Hinrichs promised him no less than 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 years. He opted for the longer sentence, though the Suffolk County District Attorney's office had recommended 4 to 12 years. Negotiated pleas are not deals with the DA's office, but rather with the court.
Parris and Byank, then 19 years old, took a ride on his sport bike, with friends, to Montauk, after finding out they were expecting a baby, on May 24, 2010. They were headed back when an East Hampton Town police officer tried to pull them over for speeding.
When Byank pleaded guilty on May 9, he admitted to speeding as fast as 80 mph in a 55 mph zone on Montauk Highway, weaving in and out of traffic on a double-yellow line, between Montauk and Amagansett, eventually losing control of the vehicle and hitting a pole. Parris was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital.
Laura Newcombe, the assistant district attorney, said that while Byank seemed remorseful when he took the deal, a pre-sentencing report showed he was still making excuses for what happened. She said he told the probation department that conduct the pre-sentencing investigation that the police almost hit him and that he had pulled over for the police, which was not the case.
Daniel Barker, Byank's attorney, made an application before sentencing to strike two sentences from the pre-sentencing report that were not favorable for his client, but the judge denied the application.
Hinrichs said that while Byank's family and friends submitted letters on his behalf, he took exception with them calling what happened an accident. "It's much more than an accident given the conduct that was involved here — driving without a license and flight," he said.
Hinrichs said it was clear "significant action must be taken." He then gave Byank 3 to 9 years on the top count of second-degree mansalughter, as well 2 1/3 to 7 years for fleeing a police officer and 30 days for driving with a suspended license. He also has to pay a $375 surcharge. The sentences will run concurrently.
Byank, dressed in a suit and tie, was then taken into custody. "I'm willing to accept what I have done," he told the judge. "If I could turn the clock back, I would."
Newcombe referred to a statement Byank made to police after finding out Parris had died: "He inquired as to when he could get his motorcycle back," she said, adding that it pointed to his "callous" nature.
Three people made victim impact statements to the judge before the sentencing, including Danielle Parris, Lauren's younger sister. She said Byank took away her best friend. "You took so much away from us," she said.
Daniel Parris told the judge Byank was a sociopath who moved on quickly with young women after the accident that killed his daughter and his unborn grandchild.
He said he had warned Byank to drive carefully with his daughter after she complained he had done 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic, on the Long Island Expressway two months earlier. "I told him, 'My daughter gets hurt, you get hurt'," Parris told the judge. "I'm not a killing man, so I broke my promise," he said. "He's lucky I'm not that kind of man."
Daniel Parris said he still wants to know exactly what happened that night. He claims that he received a text message from Lauren the night she died at 9:11 p.m. that said they were being chased by police. However, he said, the police report doesn't indicate a chase began until 9:30 p.m.
Still, he said that Byank is the one responsible for his daughter's death even though he believes the police officer shouldn't have chased a motorcyclist with a passenger on back. Byank destroyed a lot of lives, he said. "All he had to do was stop."
After the sentencing, Patricia Parris, Lauren's mother, said the sentence wasn't long enough. "This is nothing," she said. "The worst is yet to come for him."
Friends of the victim wore shirts with her picture on it. The back read: "Only the good die young."