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Man Who Killed Friend In DUI Crash Sentenced To State Prison

September 11, 2018

SCRANTON — At the request of his victim’s family, Matthew Gajdys received a plea deal five years ago that let him avoid a mandatory state prison sentence for a drunken-driving crash killed his best friend.

All Gajdys had to do was perform 1,000 hours of community service and stay out of trouble while meeting the requirements of the Lackawanna County Veterans Court program.

On Tuesday, after the defendant’s fourth veterans court violation, President Judge Michael J. Barrasse sentenced Gajdys, 37, to 18 months to three years in state prison plus two years of probation for his August 2013 guilty plea to homicide by vehicle in the death of Michael Evans.

“Has anybody been given more chances than you?” Barrasse asked Gajdys in handing down the sentence.

Investigators say Gajdys, an Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.199 — more than double the state’s legal limit of 0.8 — when he crashed his Jeep Cherokee into a tractor-trailer on Route 435 in Clifton Twp. on Feb. 24, 2013.

Evans, 33, who had been Gajdys’ friend for 15 years and was a passenger in the Cherokee, was killed instantly.

State police initially charged Gajdys with homicide by vehicle while DUI, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in state prison.

However, Evans’ family asked prosecutors to withdraw the more serious charge, allowing Gajdys to plead guilty instead to homicide by vehicle, DUI and a summary traffic offense.

He was sentenced by Barrasse in December 2013 to 11 to 22 months in the county prison, plus 5 ½ years of probation. He was also ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service by speaking to at-risk groups about substance abuse.

With credit for time served, Gajdys was released from the county jail in early 2014 and placed under the supervision of the veterans court.

Barrasse told Gajdys that he repeatedly failed to follow through, despite being pushed and prodded.

In a statement, District Attorney Mark Powell said the county’s treatment courts, including veterans court, serve a vital role in giving deserving candidates a second chance.

“Unfortunately, not all defendants live up to their end of the bargain, and when they don’t, they must face the consequences,” Powell said.

Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9132

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