The scene in courtroom W-905 at the King County Courthouse Friday afternoon was emotional as Robert Malsch was sentenced to 125 months in prison.
Malsch pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide — DUI, felony hit and run and reckless driving in Redmond in February 2015.
A Reporter story noted that Malsch — a then-21-year-old from Lynnwood — was involved in a two-car collision early Feb. 28, 2015, which resulted in the death of the other driver, Michael Ey.
A Redmond Police Department spokesperson at the time said Malsch was traveling at a high speed and rear-ended Ey, whose vehicle was stopped at a traffic light off State Route 520 and Avondale Road. Ey, 30, died instantly.
Judge Mary Roberts handed down the 10-plus-years sentence — which was the high end of the 95 to 125-month sentence range and the state’s recommendation.
SCENE OF THE COLLISION
While addressing Roberts and the court, King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Knightlinger discussed the details of the collision.
She said a witness told police that they estimated Malsch to be traveling at more than 100 mph when he hit Ey, who was coming home from a night of hanging out with friends.
Malsch, who had a blood-alcohol level that was about three times the legal limit, and Knightlinger said, did not try to help Ey. Instead, Malsch got out of his car and ran.
While Malsch has said that he is accepting responsibility, Knightlinger said his actions have not shown this as he has not acknowledged the alcohol and marijuana found in his car at the scene of the collision. She also noted how Malsch fled the courtroom following his trial and altered his appearance.
MEMORIES OF EY
In addition to Knightlinger, family and friends of both Ey and Malsch addressed the court on Friday.
“Losing him has been beyond devastating,” said Ey’s girlfriend Kelley Piering, who discussed their relationship.
She and Ey had just bought a home in Woodinville and Piering said she is constantly reminded that he is gone. Piering said a part of her still expects to receive text messages from Ey, telling her he is coming home from work. She also thinks about the children they would have had that will never exist.
Ey was a software engineer at Microsoft Corp., where he was part of teams working on the HoloLens project. Piering, who was very emotional and had to pause to collect herself a number of times during her statement, told the court that Ey had recently received an award at work and how happy he was to be recognized for his work.
She also recounted the events of Feb. 28, 2015 and what she went through when she learned about what had happened to Ey.
Piering (above left) said initially, she was annoyed and mad at Ey for not coming home that night, as “Mike always comes home.” She recalled how after an entire morning of calling Ey’s cell phone, at 10:34 a.m., police officers visited her at home to inform her that her boyfriend had been killed in a car collision. Piering said she just kept asking the police, “Where’s Mike?”
She also asked if the other driver — Malsch — was OK, before she learned the full details of what had happened and how everything could have been avoided.
“It took me hours to fully understand that (Malsch)…just ran,” Piering said. “This can never be made right.”
Ey’s parents also spoke in court today.
His mother Irene Ey discussed how seriously her son took his responsibilities, even choosing to pay off his car loan in full because he didn’t want to deal with the monthly payments. She compared this to Malsch’s actions since the crash that killed Michael.
Both Irene and her husband Robert Ey, Michael’s father, also expressed their hope that Malsch takes his time in prison to think about his actions and their consequences. They also said they hoped he will take advantage of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs offered in prison to become better for after he is released.
“He clearly needs time to grow,” Robert said.
During her remarks, Malsch’s attorney Colleen Hartl said her client does intend to take advantage of the rehabilitation programs in prison. She said Malsch has also expressed an interest in raising awareness for drunk driving.
Hartl added that Malsch would like to raise awareness about clubs and bars that over serve their customers, as he had been prior to the accident.
“He was clearly over served at that club,” she said. “This shouldn’t have happened.”
Hartl said this is not an excuse for Malsch to get in his car and drive, but a fact that also needs to be addressed.
“He can’t go back,” she said. “He made the decision to drink.”
TAKING THINGS TO HEART
Malsch’s grandmother Marion Aag also addressed the court, representing herself as well as Malsch’s mother.
In her remarks Aag, who shook with emotion, encouraged her grandson take to heart the consequences of his actions.
She said while preventable, things cannot be changed and she will pray for Michael’s family, knowing that there is no judgment to make up for the loss of such a beloved person.
“You’re on my heart and I’m so sorry,” she told Michael’s family in court.
Just before being sentenced, Malsch spoke briefly. In a quiet voice, he told the court that he accepts responsibility for what he had done and is truly sorry for his actions.
AN EMOTIONAL RULING
Michael’s and Malsch’s families and friends were not the only ones to become emotional in court Friday.
The judge, Roberts, also became choked up as she discussed the case.
“I long ago decided it was OK,” she said about feeling emotions and compassion while considering a case and sentence.
Roberts said she received about 20 letters from Michael’s family and friends and those letters painted a picture of a brilliant, compassionate and quirky man.
The judge also received letters written on Malsch’s behalf as well. She said those letters were heartbreaking and significant. In those letters, Roberts did not find excuses for what Malsch did, but she did find reasons for compassion.
“I have lost sleep over this case,” she said, addressing Malsch directly.
While Malsch had no criminal record prior to the accident, Roberts ruled to give him to the highest possible sentence based on his actions following the accident.
“You lost your chance for leniency when you left the court after your trial,” she told Malsch.