Kerrigan is given maximum sentence

Sister, mother asked for leniency

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By David Abel
Globe Staff / May 27, 2011

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WOBURN — After nine long days of sitting silently beside his lawyers, every moment of his trial broadcast by television, Mark Kerrigan stood up in a dark suit yesterday with a somber gaze, his eyes moist after his sister and mother made tear-filled appeals to the judge for leniency.

“Your honor, I’d just like to say I loved my father, and I miss him very much,’’ he said in a 15-second statement, a day after a Middlesex Superior Court jury convicted him of assault and battery on his 70-year-old father on the night he died. “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.’’

But their appeals seemed to have little effect on Judge S. Jane Haggerty, who sentenced the 46-year-old to 2 1/2 years in the Middlesex House of Correction, more than the year to 18 months suggested by the state’s sentencing guidelines. She sentenced him to the maximum time permitted by law.

Haggerty said Kerrigan’s history of violent crime, four prior arrests for drunken driving, and his repeated failure to address substance abuse and mental health issues warranted the maximum sentence. She said she took into consideration the frailty of his father, Daniel Kerrigan, during the fatal encounter in their kitchen in January 2010.

“He is not a candidate for probation,’’ she said, noting that Kerrigan was found to have violated previous probation periods three times.

She said Mark Kerrigan was a “middle-aged man with serious alcohol issues’’ and went on to cite what she called his uncontrollable anger, history of destructive behavior, violence toward women and family members, and unresolved mental health issues.

“There is always some hope that Mr. Kerrigan will someday successfully address these issues,’’ Haggerty said. “One hopes that he will take responsibility for himself and his actions.’’

She ordered Kerrigan, the brother of former Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan, to serve two years behind bars, suspending the remaining six months. He will receive credit for four months he has spent in custody awaiting trial. His sentence also includes a two-year probation period, and the judge required that he attend anger counseling and get substance abuse counseling.

Kerrigan was sentenced after his sister and his mother, Brenda Kerrigan, pleaded with the judge to allow him to go home with them. They said their family had suffered enough and that Daniel Kerrigan would never have wanted his son to be prosecuted.

Brenda Kerrigan, who remained distraught yesterday, asked her sister, Joanne Tarason, to read her victim impact statement to the court. In it, Brenda Kerrigan faulted Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s decision to file charges against her son. She also faulted Leone for saying Wednesday that the last thing Daniel Kerrigan saw before he died was the angry face of his son.

“I have lost my husband and, for the last 16 months, have had only a shadow of my son,’’ she said in the statement. “I never wanted this trial, charges, or any attention paid to what happens within my family, but the Commonwealth insisted.’’

She added: “I was the last person my husband looked at before he passed away. I think this whole exercise has been unnecessary and served to create a very difficult situation for me and my family. Mark is and has always been someone that I, his mother, can count on.’’

Nancy Kerrigan urged Haggerty “to please send him home with us today so he can rejoin our family.’’

“While we felt an acquittal across the board would have been the just outcome and would have allowed my father to rest easily, we respect the work of the jury,’’ she said.

“None of us has really had a chance to even grieve over the loss of our father,’’ she said. “Any sentence for Mark would only serve to extend an unnecessary situation that already seems that it has been never-ending.’’

Mark Kerrigan was acquitted of the greater charge of manslaughter, which carried a maximum sentence of 20 years.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Kerrigan fought with his father in a late-night, alcohol-fueled argument over use of the family’s telephone, grabbing him by the neck, crushing cartilage, and triggering his heart failure.

Kerrigan’s lawyers argued that Daniel Kerrigan’s heart failure began before he started grappling with his son and that he died after a long history of coronary artery disease, which was so advanced that three of four major arteries to his heart were almost fully blocked.

Haggerty’s sentence clearly disappointed the Kerrigan clan. As she was leaving the courtroom, Brenda Kerrigan said the postrelease conditions would burden her son, who will become eligible for parole in eight months. “He won’t ever be able to work,’’ she said, struggling to contain tears.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley argued yesterday that Kerrigan’s history of violence and alcohol abuse made it necessary for the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

Prosecutors also pointed out that Mark Kerrigan was convicted of assaulting his former wife in 2006 and said they feared that Kerrigan family members were putting themselves at risk by asking that he be allowed to return home.

Defense attorney Janice Bassil said the Kerrigan family was well aware that Mark Kerrigan has mental health issues. She urged the judge to sentence him to time served, four months awaiting trial, and order that he receive mental health care as a condition of probation.

“They are not fools,’’ she said in court. “They understand Mark has problems.’’

She asked the judge to take into account how Kerrigan’s alcohol issues were exacerbated by two life-changing episodes in the 1980s when he was in the Army.

She said he was robbed and held at gunpoint in Chicago while en route to deploy to a peacekeeping mission with his unit in Egypt. Also, she said, he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after a plane he was supposed to be on that was carrying some of his closest friends out of Egypt crashed, killing about 250 people aboard.

“He was at a complete loss’’ afterward, Bassil said.

She added that Kerrigan loved his father, admired him, and considered him his best friend.

Keeley insisted that she and other prosecutors always treated the Kerrigan family with respect.

“But their efforts to help [Mark] and support him have not worked,’’ she said. “He’s a grown man and has to be held accountable.’’

David Abel can be reached at