Once again, Mary Montgomery has been the forgotten woman in Sean Casey’s latest attempt to weasel out of the consequences for her homicide.
Casey’s most recent legal ploy was a motion to have his court records sealed, because certain foreign countries might deny him entry with a DUI homicide on his rap sheet. “If I am unable to travel abroad because of the conviction in my court file, my career is over,” said Casey, 41, whose prison release date is May 1, 2016.
After all, he wrote in a Feb. 2 letter attached to the motion, “It is hard to imagine anyone ever having an interest in the case file of this unfortunate traffic accident that happened over a decade ago.”
“On the contrary,” he wrote, “there is a great interest by many people in seeing me traveling around the hemisphere helping to build and strengthen democracies by defending a free press and freedom of expression.”
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The motion did not mention Mary Montgomery, who, after all, was only a no-account victim in that “unfortunate traffic accident that happened over a decade ago.”
After the Herald’s David Ovalle reported Tuesday how this self-styled champion of the free press was trying to suppress public access to records of his own transgressions, Casey’s lawyer quickly withdrew the motion, saying that his client “didn’t want it to become a public spectacle.”
Apparently, it was no longer so hard to imagine public interest in that “unfortunate traffic accident that happened over a decade ago.”
It was just after 10 o’clock in the morning on March 11, 2001. Sean Casey, drunk at the wheel after a night spent clubbing, was speeding through a Miami Beach intersection when his BMW 325i struck 71-year-old Montgomery with horrific force. A witness told police: “She went up in the air and packages, bags, clothes, everything was . . . it was like a garbage can . . . when you run into a garbage can, everything just gets thrown up in the air.”
Casey kept driving. He then ditched his damaged BMW six blocks from his apartment. Some of the groceries Montgomery had been carrying were found strewn across his car seat. When cops questioned him at his apartment a short time later, Casey claimed he remembered nothing about an accident. He suggested that his car must have been stolen, though shards of the broken windshield were found on his shirt.
The evidence was overwhelming. His lawyer told him that he had maybe a 10 percent chance of beating the case in a jury trial. No wonder that instead of showing up for trial in 2004, Casey absconded for South America.
Two years later, the fugitive was extradited from Chile. Casey pleaded guilty in Miami-Dade Circuit Court and was sentenced to a dozen years in prison.
The transcript of the plea hearing shows the judge questioning Casey extensively, making sure he knew exactly the ramifications of his guilty plea. “And are you satisfied with the work that your attorneys have done for you . . . and any advice that they may have given you about the plea that was offered to you by the prosecution?”
Casey answered, “Yes, sir.”
But within a few months, he was trying to renege, coming up with a claim (never mentioned at the sentence hearing) that it had been his lawyer, Milton Hirsch, who had advised him to jump bond and leave the country two years before. He and his mother produced a secretly recorded tape of their conversation with Hirsch, now a Miami-Dade judge, that they claimed supported their allegation. The illegal tape was never allowed into evidence, though the judge gave it a listen and found little to support their claim.
But even if the allegations had been true, surely a former projects manager for the Inter American Press Association with a graduate degree from Georgetown University would have known that jumping bond and absconding to Chile was an illegal, reckless act. But through his press connections and relentless campaigning by his mother, Casey garnered support for his specious claim that he had been unfairly convicted from outfits like — it shames me to say — the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, the Inter American Press Association and the alternative weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian.
They supported him through more than a half-dozen failed appeals.
None of the Free Sean supporters seemed to have had anything to say about Mary Montgomery, whose closest relative was a niece living in Phoenix, Arizona. FreeSeanCasey.org, the website pushing the notion that he was an innocent man who had been railroaded into a guilty plea by his own lawyer, dismissed the victim as a “71-year-old somewhat overweight woman with emphysema and high blood pressure.” She was called “an active independent cause of her own death when she decided to cross a busy three-lane roadway carrying heavy groceries that might have obstructed her vision of oncoming traffic.”
In a 2009 letter to the Miami New Times, Casey offered up an alternative scenario to how Mary Montgomery died. “It is possible that some guy slipped me a roofie at The Boardwalk Bar, threw me in the back seat so I could lie down, hit the pedestrian, took off to switch cars at this house and stopped at the ATM to get money so he could get away.”
His champions seemed to find this stuff plausible.
But I wonder what they thought about the sworn affidavit their poor, innocent Sean sent to the State Attorney’s Office last year, hoping to get a year shaved off his prison sentence. “I would like to officially take responsibility of the death of Mary Montgomery and for fleeing to avoid punishment for my actions.” He added, “As far as fleeing the country, I blame nobody but myself for this bad choice.”
Of course, his admission came after years of mendacity, with him blaming his legal travails on his lawyer, his psychologist, incompetent Miami Beach cops, unfair prosecutors, negligent judges, some phantom carjacker, and, oh yeah, the victim he left dying in the street. (No wonder he wants his judicial records sealed.)
But at least Mary Montgomery finally got a mention.