SPOKANE, Wash. - A young man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for killing a decorated Vietnam veteran as he tried to break up an underage drinking party.
Frank Motta, 65, was also a teacher, coach and principal and worked as a patient advocate at Spokane's VA Medical Center.
During his sentencing for Motta's death, Treven Lewis, 21, heard he had inadvertently killed a man that had turned around the lives of so many young people. As an educator, Motta reached out to at risk kids, showed them respect and put them on the straight and narrow.
Motta was killed trying to break up a party at a neighbor's place while she was out of town and in court Thursday his neigbhbor Maureen Fanion scolded Lewis for attacking him.
"It was an ugly and evil choice to hit a old man half your size," she said. "I look at that as a cowardly act, a complete opposite of who Frank Motta was and will always be remembered."
No one thinks Lewis intended to kill Motta; prosecutors don't believe Motta pushed Lewis' girlfriend either but the single punch Lewis threw at Motta led to serious brain injuries and Motta's family watched him struggle to survive inside Sacred Heart's Intensive Care Unit.
"On his final day his entire body so swollen with edema that he was shaking all over. These are the last horrendous memories I have of my father and these images haunt me," Lori Sheeley, a victim witness advocate, said, reading aloud to the court a letter from Motta's daughter Jamie.
To his credit, Lewis listened intently to Motta's lifetime of accomplishments including four years of active duty in Vietnam.
"After that he became a teacher and principal because he believed there were kids out there that deserved a second chance," Fanion said, adding she's sure Motta would want Lewis to get a chance to learn from his mistakes as well.
During the sentencing hearing Lewis himself stood up to face the court and apologize for his actions.
"I repent and pray for the healing for each and everyone. Words cannot explain how truly sorry I am. Please accept my apology," Lewis said.
Judge Annette Plese, having previously accepted Lewis' guilty plea to a first degree manslaughter charge, sentenced him to 10 years in prison. While he is there he will get an inmate labor job and begin paying back $50,000 in restitution.
Upon his release from prison he was ordered to not associate with gang members.
Lewis, who as a kid didn't have a dad around, gravitated toward gang membership, where he learned to get what he wanted through intimidation and violence. Hopefully, with the help of his family, Lewis will want something better when he gets out.