W.Va. man sentenced for hindering paramedics at daughter's car accident
Rudy Falbo to judge: 'I did nothing wrong but try to comfort my daughter'
By Kate White
The Charleston Gazette
WINFIELD, W.Va. — A Hurricane father who hindered paramedics at the scene of his daughter's car accident last year was sentenced in Putnam County Circuit Court on Thursday to one year of unsupervised probation.
Rudy Falbo, 41, appeared frustrated before and after sentencing on the misdemeanor charge. He defended himself until the moment Putnam Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers handed down his punishment.
"I did nothing wrong but try to comfort my daughter," Falbo told Stowers before being sentenced. "I just wish this was all behind me."
Stowers reminded Falbo that he already had pleaded guilty to committing a crime.
"If you didn't want me to pass judgment," he said, "you shouldn't have pled."
Falbo could have faced 30 years in prison.
In January 2011, police charged Falbo with hindering an emergency rescue — a felony — after his daughter's Ford Explorer was T-boned by another car at the intersection of U.S. 60 and Sycamore Road.
His daughter has recovered from the collision.
This past January, Falbo entered a Kennedy v. Frazier plea to obstructing an officer. The deal dropped seven other misdemeanor charges Falbo was facing: battery of a government representative; two counts of battery of emergency service personnel; three counts of assault of a government representative; and obstructing or causing bodily injury to emergency medical service personnel.
With a Kennedy plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but agrees to a deal because he believes a jury might convict him of a crime with a longer sentence if the case goes to trial.
Falbo's lawyer, Jamie Fox, said after sentencing that taking the deal was a difficult decision.
"It was a tough call," he said. "You're afraid your client might get convicted of eight counts."
Fox requested that Stowers consider what Falbo's family already has had to deal with during the past year and allow that to be punishment enough. He said Falbo had struggled to find a job after being charged and recently had landed a position at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.
Stowers is a former emergency medical technician and said emergency responders should be shown respect.
"They put their life on the line every day, and I'm not going to let this go ...," he said. "Emergency service personnel and police, regardless of what happened, have to be respected."
In addition to the probation, the judge also ordered Falbo to complete 20 hours of community service. One-fourth of those hours must be spent speaking in public about the importance of respecting emergency officials, Stowers said.
Falbo also must write "heartfelt and true" letters of apology to six emergency responders who were at the scene of the incident.
According to criminal complaints filed in Putnam County Magistrate Court, paramedics and volunteer firefighters on scene repeatedly told Falbo to get out of the way.
Hurricane police Patrolmen J.M. Kerr and C.K. Eggleton also told Falbo several times to move, the complaint states.
"Kerr [then] pulled Mr. Falbo out of the way by his belt and at that point Mr. Falbo began pulling away and fighting," allegedly assaulting two firefighters and three paramedics in the process, the complaint states.
"[In] the course of Mr. Falbo fighting, he was taken to the ground where he resisted arrest and then got back up and was pinned against a fire truck, and Officer Eggleton applied the Taser to Mr. Falbo."
Josh Falbo, Rudy Falbo's son, allegedly shoved two firefighters and threw a punch that missed, according to the complaint. Charges against Josh Falbo were dismissed.
Eggleton and Putnam County paramedic Cory Champlin were treated at CAMC Teays Valley for hand injuries, the complaint states.
About 20 of Falbo's friends and relatives gathered outside the courthouse in Winfield in March 2011 with signs demanding that prosecutors drop the case against him, saying he was just trying to comfort his daughter.
Stowers said Thursday the only reason Falbo was not being sentenced to jail time was because his reaction to his daughter being in pain was "human."
Putnam assistant prosecutor Kristina Raynes said she thinks the sentence is fair.
"It's a good balance between what the court thought about his emotional reaction and the need to be respectful to public servants," she said. "Writing the letters, maybe he'll have time to reflect and realize things could've been handled differently."