• Jan 17th 2012 at 10:35AM
  • 497
Copy of a family photo of Denise and Gerard Bassi. The ... Copy of a family photo of Denise and Gerard Bassi. The couple was killed, along with Denise's mother, Linda McWilliams in a 2007 Christmas day crash in Hudson, FL (Tampa Bay Times/Zuma).
In what many would call the biggest act of chutzpah of the last decade, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to committing DUI manslaughter in 2007 after police found drugs in his system is now filing a lawsuit against his dead victims for being the real cause of the accident.

David Belniak is apparently having second thoughts about his plea after spending a few years of a 12 year sentence behind bars. Belniak, who never spoke in his own defense during his trial, is being represented by his sister, an attorney, so legal fees are apparently not an issue.

Attorney Debra A. Tuomey, in making her brother's filing, said the Florida Highway Patrol's investigation of the case was a "government sanctioned assassination against one individual." Her suit suggests that the police and prosecutor's office were driven by Belniak's history as a DUI driver and convicted drug dealer rather than the facts of the accident .

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the lawsuit seeks to get the victims' relatives to pay Belniak, now 38, for his "pain and suffering ... mental anguish ... loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" and the medical bills he got as a result of a crash he pleaded guilty to causing.

"This is ridiculous," Georgette DeFranco, 48, a relative of the victims, told the Times. "You caused it. You accepted guilt. How can I or anybody in this family be responsible for your injuries?"

DeFranco, the Times reported, lost her mother, Linda McWilliams, 66; her sister, Denise Bassi, 50; and her brother-in-law, Gerard Bassi, 51, in the crash. DeFranco's stepfather, Ray McWilliams, was injured but survived, but died last March at age 68 allegedly, in part, due to the after effects of the accident. The Bassi couple lived in Connecticut and were visiting Florida for the holidays.

Authorities said Belniak, at the time of the accident on Christmas day 2007, was driving between 75 and 85 mph when his pickup smashed into the back of McWilliams' Chevrolet Tahoe. The SUV crumpled. Gerard Bassi died at the scene. Denise Bassi died in surgery that day. Linda McWilliams was taken off life support a week later. Authorities said Belniak had alcohol, Xanax and evidence of cocaine in his system.

A record of drugs and bad driving

Belniak had a history of driving infractions, having faced DUI charges twice before, according to the Times. Belniak also served a previous prison term for possessing and trafficking GHB, commonly known as "the date rape drug."

So how could Belniak possibly be charging that the accident was the fault of the victim?
The suit claims McWilliams was in the left turn lane and "because of his sheer negligence" McWilliams abruptly changed lanes, "making it impossible" for Belniak to avoid the collision. The suit also accuses McWilliams of "possibly" being under the influence of medication at the time of the crash.

Tuomey has said that her brother accepted a plea deal on the three counts of DUI manslaughter and other charges because he was facing a possible sentence of life in prison.

Maureen M. Deskins, the Tampa attorney representing the estate of Linda and Ray McWilliams, told the Tampa Bay Times the lawsuit is "gut-wrenching" and that the relatives are "stunned."

Anyone would be, especially given Belniak's history on top of the details of the accident.



I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 497 Comments
      arnoldhoneybrown
      • 3 Years Ago
      If the world is lucky his friends in jail will wear his azz out an make life in jail a liven H _ _ l !! This man an sister are sick folks .
      • 3 Years Ago
      The real problem is punishment no longer fit the crime. If he would have truly been punished for his previous crimes, he would not have been willing to do it again. Twelve years of his life, for killing four people, and destroying who knows how many more. And now the surviving victims get the honor of being dragged through this.
      janbrew
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's so wonderful living in Florida! People get away with murder all of the time down here - Casey Anthony - and now this guy feels the need to sue the people he murdered while driving under the influence! Wish we had the means to relocate out of this crazy state!!!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      /FACEPALM
      • 3 Years Ago
      There is a hot hot hot place in hell for this guy and his sister the lawyer. Believe that. What comes around goes around. He's lucky he didn't kill anyone who was connected. He'd be wearing cement shoes by now.
      racercar
      • 3 Years Ago
      If there ever was a douche bag it's the sister/attorney representing this guy. Something needs to be done to prevent BS lawsuits like this from clogging the court system ... and lawyers who file them need to be disbarred.
      incink
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well, he has been caused pain and suffering from the three people he killed. It's not his fault they're no longer alive to pay him. Might as well go after the mourners.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Unbelievable! Some people have no guilt in regard of their ACTIONS! That guy should rot in jail. He is a killer! 3 people isn't enough? What chutzpah! I can't believe that these kind of individuals are amongst us! Those are the worse, along with his sister, how can she take his defense? There is none!!!!!
      hubigspies
      • 3 Years Ago
      And what if McWilliams did, in fact, pull out in front of the Belniak vehicle such that he could not avoid the collision? Are there witnesses to attest to this fact? If so, McWilliams bears the responsibility for the collision.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This makes me sick.. my moms boyfriend lost his brother and his whole family plus a family friends child so in all 2 adults and 3 children dead due to a drunk driver.. 2 things first any judge or jury to find on this guys side should be sued by the family for being stupid 2nd when all said and done and he loses, him and his attormey should be shot by the victims family
      flopardo
      • 3 Years Ago
      The wrong people died.
      midamerfrn
      • 3 Years Ago
      Tort reform will never happen as long as the trial lawyers own the political system. I guarantee other litigaton lawyers are watching this case to see how it turns out. Remember, suing on grounds that later turned out to be incorrect was how John Edwards made his fortune.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X