Kim O’Leary and Robert R. Duprie Jr. have reason to be angry with Kyle Podolak of Enumclaw, to hate him even.
Podolak was driving drunk on April 22, 2012, when he lost control of his pickup and wrecked outside Orting.
O’Leary’s and Duprie’s son, Brandon Duprie, who’d turned 21 just the week before, was thrown out of the truck and killed. Another passenger, Bruce Southworth, suffered a spinal injury. Podolak escaped with a broken arm.
But bitterness was not on the minds of O’Leary and the elder Duprie on Friday when 23-year-old Podolak went to Pierce County Superior Court to plead guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault and be sentenced.
Instead, they came bearing forgiveness and asked Judge Frank Cuthbertson to show leniency to the man responsible for their son’s death.
“If I had a choice, I think community service, like speaking at the high school about what could have and did happen on that dreadful night, would be more of an honor to my son Brandon than putting this young man in jail,” Duprie said.
O’Leary, whose marriage to Duprie ended in divorce 18 years ago, agreed. She told Cuthbertson she’s become close friends with Podolak since the wreck and thinks he’s suffered enough. Her son and Podolak had been friends since childhood and often fished together, she said.
“That night changed us all,” O’Leary said.
Cuthbertson concurred and sentenced Podolak as a first-time offender. That allowed the judge to ignore the standard prison term of two years, two months recommended by deputy prosecutor Tim Jones.
“He made choices,” Jones said of his recommendation. “Drinking and driving just don’t happen in a vacuum.”
Cuthbertson instead gave Podolak a year in jail but converted 334 days of that time to electronic-home monitoring and 30 days of community service. The judge also gave him credit for the 274 days he’s spent on electronic home-monitoring while waiting for his case to be resolved.
The outcome seemed to please the nearly 50 people who attended the sentencing, many of whom smiled when Podolak walked out of court.
It was an emotional hearing, with many people wiping at tears as Duprie, then O’Leary, then Southworth spoke on Podolak’s behalf.
Podolak shed tears of his own when Cuthbertson gave him a chance to speak. He started off by apologizing to Duprie’s family and to his own, as well as to Southworth.
“Bruce shouldn’t have been injured that night, and Brandon shouldn’t have died,” said Podolak. He added that he’d trade places with his dead friend if he could. “I know sorry in this case really doesn’t do anything. Sorry doesn’t bring him back. I’m fully accountable for what I’ve done.”
He then promised to try to live a righteous life to make up for his crime.
Cuthbertson listened closely and thought a moment before making his decision.
“What is just? What is justice?” the judge said.
He then turned his attention back to Podolak.
“I think Brandon’s father probably said it best, and that the greatest punishment in this case was the loss of somebody who was a life-long friend,” he said. “There’s nothing you’re going to learn in prison that’s going to have a greater impact on you than the loss of Brandon.”
Cuthbertson then adopted the first-time offender waiver recommended by defense attorney Daryl Graves, who presented the judge with a dozen letters of support from people in Enumclaw, including a fire district battalion chief.
He implored Podolak to “share some of these lessons about drinking and driving and partying and speeding … so maybe some of the younger kids in your community won’t think that’s the hip thing to do.”
The judge then said Podolak wasn’t getting a pass.
“I hope nobody is confused and thinking that Kyle is getting off light on this thing,” Cuthbertson said. “I just think in this case the community and the parents are right.
“This is the sentence that allows people to heal, to get back on with their lives, that allows this young man to show that he can continue to be a productive member of that community, to serve that community.”