Refusal to offer apology sends convicted drunk driver back to jail

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU.com

kens5.com

Posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:18 AM

HOUSTON — A Cypress-area man convicted of DWI is back in jail because he refused to write a letter of apology to the victim’s family.

Michael Giacona, 39, was driving a van on June 25, 2011, when he collided with a Mustang driven by Aaron Pennywell, 20, at the intersection of Spring-Cypress and Huffmeister.

But although Giacona had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, prosecutors believed they only had enough evidence to convict him of DWI, not intoxication manslaughter.

Prosecutors said they couldn’t prove which of the two drivers actually caused the crash.

Giacona was sentenced to a year in jail, but was granted a program called "shock probation" after being locked up for just 90 days.

The probation requirements included the stipulation that he stand at the crash site on four consecutive Saturdays wearing a sign around his neck that said "I killed Aaron Coy Pennywell while driving drunk."

Court-at-Law Judge Michael Fields allowed Giacona to end that public punishment after only one day, when he complained that threats were being made against his life.

But Fields also ordered that Giacona write a letter of apology that professed regret for his role in the crash. In court Wednesday, Giacona refused to write a letter that the judge found sufficient, so he was ordered back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

"I would like to hear a sincere ‘I’m sorry.’ You know, to let me know that maybe he’s a human being," said Dennis Pennywell, the victim’s father.

On the one Saturday Giacona did stand at the crash site with the court-mandated sign around his neck, he offered a form of apology to a KHOU photojournalist, but would not admit guilt or responsibility for the crash.

"I feel sorry that the wreck ever happened and I feel sorry for the Pennywells," he said on April 21, 2012.

"It’s just a horrible tragedy," his mom, June Giacona, said standing next to him. "It’s been very hard for him too, for our family as well. I just thank God I still have my son."

"But I would expect from the attitude we’ve seen, it probably won’t cure him of the habit of drinking and driving," Pennywell said. 

The DWI conviction was Giacona’s second.

"We do feel like he probably will be out again," Pennywell said.

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