January 18, 1999
KENT--Papers received last week led a King County judge to postpone sentencing George Moorhead, the 31-year-old Woodinville firefighter convicted of three counts of vehicular homicide last October, for one week.
Judge LeRoy McCullough rescheduled sentencing for this Friday at 3 p.m. at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. This week, McCullough will consider a Department of Corrections official's non-opposition to Moorhead being sentenced below the standard range of 36 to 48 months. Prosecutors will also have a chance to respond to legal briefs filed by Moorhead's attorney, Joe Schlosser.
While Schlosser said it was extraordinary for the jail official to go downward on a sentencing range, the very same document also brought devastating news for his client. Moorhead had appeared ready to face prison for the deaths of Tien Thai, Huu Hoang, and Phu Huynh in a 1997 traffic accident and was making amends with their families, but after learning that he wouldn't be allowed further contact with them, he could barely speak in court.
"I felt I couldn't change what happened in the past, but I wanted to change the future," said Moorhead, his voice breaking at times. "I ask that you allow me to continue helping in the way I know how. It's what I'm good at."
According to Schlosser, after the trial concluded last fall, Moorhead and a relative met with a representative of one of the families. Following Vietnamese convention, Moorhead brought foods, gifts, and the proper incenses to honor the deceased. Seeing Moorhead's commitment, the ceremony was stopped and the other families brought in.
Afterwards, Moorhead had recontacted the families for assistance ideas and about getting the children involved in community programs, Schlosser said. But the news that Moorhead would not be able to continue may have been worse than any jail term.
"The truly frightening thing was when he read the report and was told to stay away," Schlosser said.
Moorhead and his victims became bound the morning of June 14, 1997. The three former Vietnamese soldiers had been headed home from work just past midnight when Moorhead's truck sped through a stop sign and caved in the passenger's side of their car. Though Moorhead attempted to render aid, the three men died at the scene from massive injuries.
The defense argued that the intersection where the accident occured was faulty. They also argued, later, that prison would do Moorhead no good and hinted that society would be better served by Moorhead's continuing his extensive community involvement.
Last week, Deputy Prosecutor Rod Scarr acknowledged the scores of letters Moorhead's supporters have sent McCullough, as well as his 12 years with the Woodinville Fire & Life Safety District.
"However, people with good character make bad judgements, and when a jury finds them guilty, consequences must follow," said Scarr. He recommended jail time at the low end of the sentencing range, plus one year in community placement. Schlosser suggested three alternatives: no jail time, a year or less, or monitored community placement.
As at ease as he'd appeared with his future before court last Friday, Moorhead's emotional plea to the judge also led into an attack on media accounts which, fed by prosecutor's charging papers, detailed how he had partied that night then sped off. But alcohol was dismissed as a factor early on in the trial.
"I am not the demon I was originally portrayed to be, that the media made me to be," Moorhead said. There were no representatives from the victims' families in attendance.