Two and a half years in jail lies ahead for the brother of former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, after being convicted Wednesday for assault in the death of their 70-year-old father.
Acquitted for involuntary manslaughter by the jury, which could have equaled 20 years in prison, Mark Kerrigan was accused of causing his father Daniel Kerrigan’s death during a violent physical struggle reported earlier last year.
Nancy and the rest of her family have stood by her brother ever since the trial started in May, insisting that Mark, 46, was not responsible for the death of his father, who purportedly had a longstanding heart condition and a history of heart attacks in the past.
A state medical examiner found that Daniel Kerrigan died of cardiac dysrhythmia, a loss or interruption of a normal heartbeat that could lead to cardiac arrest, after a physical altercation with his son, according to The Associated Press.
Prosecutors argued that Nancy Kerrigan had told police that her father appeared robust prior to the altercation.
“The defense appears to be trying to create an impression that the father was a ticking time bomb and that at any time he may have died based upon his underlying condition,” said Andrew Meyer, a Boston attorney, according to AP.
“But the prosecution will say that without Mark’s attack, there would not have been any kind of heart incident that would cause his death.”
David White, another Boston attorney specializing in medical cases, countered, “Where an individual has significant coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, it’s going to be difficult for them to demonstrate that the confrontation was the cause of the death.”
District Attorney Gerry Leone, however, argued that the defendant should have known that the cruel acts that he committed against his elderly father were highly likely to result in substantial harm and endanger his father’s life, referring to police reports that indicated he “grabbed his father by the throat” before he collapsed to the floor.
Prosecutors revealed that Mark Kerrigan became drunk and belligerent – pushing, grabbing, and shoving – when his father would not let him use the family telephone to call his cousin’s wife, which he had done more than 20 times prior, AP detailed.
Brenda Kerrigan, his mother, however, told the police that she only saw the two “in a bear hug” pushing each other, but no other physical interaction.
Janice Bassil, Kerrigan’s lawyer, accused prosecutors of inaccurately portraying the altercation as a “violent and prolonged struggle.”
With a history of violent crimes however, Mark Kerrigan’s assault was reported by AP to be consistent with his prior convictions, including drunk driving, assault and battery, and violation of a restraining order.
As explained by The Boston Globe, DA Leone wrote in his sentencing memorandum that although family matters are often best contained within the walls of the home, when matters rose to the level of assault, the issue became a public concern.
“The days of familial violence being a private matter are long over,” he penned.
While the famed figure skater begged the judge to send her brother back home and allow him the chance with her family to grieve over the loss of their father, her mother declared that though she would never get her husband back, the courts had the power to give her back her son, WHDH reported.
Mark Kerrigan also said, “I love my father and miss him very much and I’d like the opportunity to return home with my family so we can finish grieving over my father’s loss.”
Describing Kerrigan’s family as “too distraught to think straight,” The Boston Globe noted that the presiding judge, S. Jane Haggerty, was “in sharp relief” at the jury’s sentence, as she “saw a man with ‘uncontrollable anger issues’ who wasn’t ready to return to the bosom of his family.”
Giving him the maximum sentence of two and a half years for assault and battery, Haggerty stated: “I do this for two reasons. First, the vulnerability of Daniel Kerrigan due to his age alone and secondly because Mr. Kerrigan is a repeat offender,” as reported by WHDH.
After Mark Kerrigan spends his remaining 20 months in jail, he will undergo counseling and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings four days a week during his parole.
Outside of the courthouse after the verdict, his sister stated, according to AP, “My family has never believed at all that my brother had anything to do with my father’s death, and he would – my dad would – never have wanted any of this.”
In an earlier interview with The Insider, Nancy Kerrigan opened up about her father and shared, holding back tears, “It’s scary to live without my dad ... I think it’s scary.”
“He won’t be there to see [his grandchildren] grow up, all that they’ll accomplish,” she added.
“But I’m lucky, blessed that he taught us, how to stand strong, and how to move on and how to be able to still laugh.”