A Massachusetts judge Thursday sentenced the brother of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan to the maximum 2½ years in jail despite tearful pleas from the famous skater and her family to spare him any more time behind bars.
Mark Kerrigan, 46, was convicted Wednesday of assault and battery, but acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2010 death of Nancy and Mark's 70-year-old father, Daniel Kerrigan, at the family's home in Stoneham, just north of Boston.
Six months of his sentence will be suspended. His lawyer said he will receive credit for the four months he has spent in jail and will become eligible for parole after serving about eight months of his sentence. Kerrigan was jailed in February after a judge found he violated the no-alcohol condition of his release on bail.
Nancy Kerrigan broke down and cried as she asked the judge to send Mark Kerrigan home instead of back to jail.
"Any sentence for Mark would only serve to extend an unnecessary situation that already seems as if it has been never-ending," she said.
"We ask that you please ... send him home with us today so that he can rejoin our family," she said.
Mark Kerrigan also spoke to the judge before sentencing.
"Your honor, I'd just like to say I loved my father and I miss him very much and I'd like the opportunity to return home with my family so we can finish grieving over my father's loss, so I can be there to help my mother," he said. Brenda Kerrigan is legally blind.
But prosecutor Elizabeth Keeley urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence, citing Kerrigan's long criminal record, including multiple convictions for drunken driving. She said that less than two months before he had an altercation with his father, Kerrigan had been released from jail after serving a 4-year sentence for various crimes, including violating a restraining order taken out by his former wife.
Keeley told the judge that Kerrigan, despite being given numerous chances while in jail and on probation, still has not learned how to control his temper and his drinking. She said the Kerrigan's family support for him has not helped.
"Regrettably, they, in supporting him, are not helping him," she said. "And the days of familial violence being a private matter are long over."
Prosecutors alleged that Mark Kerrigan caused his father's death while in a drunken rage during an altercation on Jan. 24, 2010. They said Mark Kerrigan put his hands around Daniel Kerrigan's neck with such force that he broke cartilage in his father's larynx and triggered his heart failure.
The defense argued that Daniel Kerrigan died because he had a long history of coronary artery disease and that Mark Kerrigan was not responsible. During the trial, medical experts testified that three of Daniel Kerrigan's coronary arteries were between 85 percent and 100 percent blocked.
Kerrigan's attorney, Janice Bassil, criticized prosecutors, who said after Kerrigan was acquitted of manslaughter that they still believe Mark Kerrigan caused his father's death and that the last face Daniel Kerrigan saw before he died was the angry face of his son.
Bassil called the prosecution's recommendation for the maximum 2½ years "vindictive."
"I think it is shameful to treat this family as though they are misguided fools," she said.
Bassil said Mark Kerrigan has had a troubled life and suffers from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome. She said his problems seemed to begin in 1985 after he was assaulted at gunpoint in Chicago while he was on his way to join the 101st Airborne Division to serve in a peacekeeping force in the Sinai Desert in Egypt. After serving in Egypt, Kerrigan's unit was returning home when a plane that Kerrigan was supposed to be on crashed, killing 248 members of his unit, including his two best friends, Bassil said. She said that when Kerrigan came home he was "at a complete loss."
Brenda Kerrigan, Nancy and Mark's mother, also lashed out at Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone in a statement read by her sister, Joanne Tarason.
"I never wanted this trial or charges or any attention paid to what happens within my family," she said.
"Even after the verdict, they are still taking shots at my son and my family on the news."
Before handing down the sentence, Judge S. Jane Haggerty called Kerrigan "a man who has uncontrollable anger issues" and mental health issues. She said she would give him a sentence higher than the one year called for in state sentencing guidelines because of Daniel Kerrigan's vulnerability and Mark Kerrigan's long criminal record.
"There is always some hope that Mr. Kerrigan will someday successfully address these issues," Haggerty said.
The judge also sentenced him to two years of probation, with orders to participate in anger management and alcohol treatment programs.
Nancy Kerrigan won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. At the U.S. Championships in 1994, an assailant clubbed her right knee during practice. An investigation revealed that rival Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.