Two tours of duty in Iraq didn't kill Thomas Towers, Jr., but a reckless driver did. On March 14, 2008, Towers' car was hit by another, driven by Andrew Gaudioso, who was found to have drugs in his system. After 4 months in a coma, Gaudioso was charged with vehicular homicide. Before the case could go to trial, the defense, prosecution and family of Thomas Towers reached an unusual plea deal.
Andrew Gaudioso was able to evade prison, but only if he agreed to a long probation with a twist, reports the St. Petersburg Times. Gaudioso was looking at an 8-year prison sentence, but Tower's, father, Thomas Sr., objected. "I want him to apologize to my family -- every week," Towers remembers telling the assistant state attorney. "I want him to remember, for the rest of his life, that he killed my son."
And that is exactly the sentence that was handed down to Gaudioso, with a few additions. He will be required, reports the Times, to send one postcard every week to the Towers family, for the next 15 years. What will be written on the cards is up to Gaudioso. Lake County Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary approved the punishment and added in a few more "normal" probation requirements. For the 15 years of his probation, Gaudioso may not drink or use drugs, has no driver's license for the next five years and will pay $815 in fines.
As with any probation agreement, if all the conditions are not fulfilled, the probationer may be sent to prison. Although this kind of creative sentencing can be far more effective than just allowing a defendant to, as Mr. Towers put it, sit "there in the air-conditioning, watching TV on the taxpayers' dollars," it requires more involvement from the family, and that can be painful. It could be up to the family of Thomas Towers, Jr. to report to the probation officer whether or not Gaudioso met the terms of his probation.
According to the Times November 14 report, the Towers family has received exactly two postcards. The first read "I'm very sorry." The second had no message at all. Does that suffice?