A Pasco, Florida jury has convicted Shannon Stephen on two counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident which could carry a 45-year prison sentence in accordance with Florida DUI penalties. Stephen’s DUI sentence will be handed down on July 14.
This is the second time Stephen’s has been tried for the same DUI manslaughter charges. The first trial ended when the jury could not come to a unanimous decision. That trial took place two years ago in June of 2008 and after three hours of deliberation there was no verdict. This time a Pasco County jury needed 5 ½ hours to deliberate before finding the 38-year-old guilty of running down and killing 24-year-old Sarah Gleason and 26-year-old Joseph Swiech. The engaged couple were walking home on March 26, 2006 when they were struck by Stephen just after 1:00 a.m. The man was found in his Chevy truck about a mile from the crime scene. His blood-alcohol level was three-times the legal limit registering a 0.24.
Stephen’s defense attorney defended the criminal charges by arguing that his client was not driving the truck when it struck the pedestrians. He blamed Jim Wallace for being the driver and then leaving the scene of the accident where Stephen would end up being charged with DUI manslaughter. Wallace testified for the prosecution stating that Stephen left the bar they were at together alone and his testimony was corroborated by another person with the two men that night. Both said Stephen left the bar alone and got in his Silverado.
Stephen is currently in custody in Pasco County awaiting his DUI sentence. There is no mention of any previous DUI convictions for the 38-year-old who is facing the most serious penalties you can face in Florida in a first time DUI case.