As far as Thomas Bolt's family members are concerned, Greg Moldenhauer is one of their own. That's why they stood firmly behind him in court Friday — as he was about to be sentenced for causing Bolt's death in a drunken car crash.
"I don't want to see him go to jail," said Bolt's brother Michael, 26, who came from New Hampshire to testify on Moldenhauer's behalf. "We're all real close, and he's helped us through a bad time. My whole family feels the same way."
In the end, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen MacKay couldn't let him off completely. But she did take the victim's family's wishes into account and sentenced Bolt to just six months in jail.
The accident occurred in the wee hours of Dec. 13. Best friends since their early teens, Moldenhauer and Tommy Bolt had been out celebrating Bolt's 27th birthday, Dec. 12. But while driving home to Chantilly's Brookside community where Bolt lived, Moldenhauer lost control of his car and crashed into a tree on Walney Road.
He survived the impact; Bolt, the front-seat passenger, didn't. Police charged Moldenhauer, 26, of 9334 Tartan View Drive in Fairfax, with DUI involuntary manslaughter.
During his preliminary hearing, April 19 in General District Court, fire and rescue personnel testified about what they saw at the scene and, later, at the hospital.
The crash occurred around 12:30 a.m. Moldenhauer was driving a 2003 Acura RSX north on Walney Road, near E.C. Lawrence Park. But as he approached Walney Park Drive, his car crossed over the southbound lanes, struck an embankment and hit a tree.
Police Officer Timothy Catir arrived first on the scene after the crash. After striking the tree, he said, "The vehicle flipped onto the passenger side." Rescue workers tried to extricate both men from the car. Bolt was already dead, and Moldenhauer was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital to treat leg injuries he'd sustained in the accident.
Catir also went to the hospital — and arrested Moldenhauer. "He smelled like alcoholic beverages when I got close enough to him in the emergency room to place him under arrest," he explained.
OFFICER PAUL DEHAVEN, a paramedic, flew with Moldenhauer to the hospital in the Medevac helicopter. "There was a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from [him], each time he spoke," testified DeHaven. "He stated he'd been out celebrating his buddy's 27th birthday and he'd consumed several drinks throughout the night."
On Aug. 16 in Circuit Court, Moldenhauer pleaded guilty as charged, and he returned Friday for sentencing. But he wasn't alone. Filling up two rows in the courtroom were friends and family members — Bolts and Moldenhauers, alike — who'd come to offer their support. And Judge MacKay noted the letters she'd received on his behalf from his father, several friends, members of the Bolt family and Tommy Bolt's girlfriend.
Although police had earlier estimated Moldenhauer's speed, the night of the accident, as 55-60 mph, defense attorney Bob Whitestone disputed it. "We hired Mark Culin, who did accident-reconstruction investigations while he was a Fairfax County police officer," said Whitestone. "And he determined that the speed was 39 mph."
Meanwhile, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Ben'Ary was incredulous at what he saw unfolding before him in the courtroom. "Where's the outrage about this situation?" he asked. "[Moldenhauer] was supposed to be taking care of his buddy. I don't care if he was driving 30 or 50 — it was enough to make a mangled wreck out of a vehicle and to take the life of a 27-year-old man."
"This community lost one of its members that day," continued Ben'Ary. "It has a right to be protected from people who take careless chances and risk the lives of others." He'd agreed to an 18-month sentence — the low end of the state sentencing guidelines — and called it "appropriate in this case."
Then Whitestone presented significant details of what had preceded the crash. "Tommy was driving [earlier that night]," he said. "He'd just gotten a new car and was really proud of it. He and Greg went to The Shark Club in Centreville. When they left, Tommy was too intoxicated to drive; his blood-alcohol content was .28."
A cab was called, but Bolt didn't want to leave his new car at The Shark Club. "So, since they were just a few minutes from Tommy's home, Greg decided to drive," said Whitestone. "Moments later, the car left the road, struck a tree and Tommy was killed. Tommy wasn't wearing a seatbelt."
YET, ALTHOUGH devastated by his loss, Bolt's family couldn't desert Moldenhauer. Instead, the family members rallied around him. Said Whitestone: "While Greg was recovering from his injuries, Tommy's brothers, Michael and Jon, bought him a wheelchair and took him out for lunches — in a remarkable show of compassion and understanding."
Addressing MacKay, Whitestone said the letters written on his client's behalf describe the "terrible sadness" Moldenhauer feels because of what he's done. "The people closest to Tommy have asked you to treat Greg with compassion," said the attorney. "I'd humbly ask you to respect their wishes."
Saying what a tough case this was, the judge said, "This defendant drove while he was drunk and killed somebody." However, she added, "The overwhelming support of the defendant — particularly from the decedent's family — is impressive."
Furthermore, she said, "Given the facts of the accident, it appears likely that the decedent may have been acting erratically in the car — and that may have caused the defendant to lose control [of the vehicle].
Before being sentenced, Moldenhauer had the opportunity to stand and address the court. But when he tried to, he began crying and was so overcome with emotion that his attorney had to speak for him. Said Whitestone: "He wants to express his gratitude to everyone for being here today, and he wants to tell them how sorry he is."
MacKay then sentenced Moldenhauer to two years in prison, suspending all that time but six months. And at Whitestone's request, she agreed to let him begin serving his time Dec. 20, after taking his last exam at college.
"I'm deviating downward from the guidelines in recognition of the outpouring of support you've received from the decedent's family," she explained. She then placed Moldenhauer on two years active probation following his release from jail, suspended his driver's license for a year and ordered him to receive and Alcohol and Drug Services evaluation and to undergo substance-abuse treatment.
Afterwards, outside the courtroom, Whitestone said he was pleased with the outcome of the case. "Judge MacKay is a fair and compassionate judge," he said. "I felt she was fair to the Commonwealth, as well as to my client — particularly with regard to the family's wishes. And I think Greg's family certainly accepts her decision."
Bolt's youngest brother, Jon, 24, said it was "tough" losing Tommy, and his death was actually part of a series of tragedies that had befallen the Bolts. "My mom died when I was 16, and our dad took us over and raised us," said Jon. "We were a close-knit family, and our friends were part of [it]."
Then, beginning in 2003, family members died, every two months. "My dad, who we called 'Pops,' died in August," said Jon. "My Uncle Sterling died in October and Tommy died in December. Even Tommy's dog died in February ['04]. My grandma, Mary Catherine Bolt of Greenbriar, got us through it. She was like a rock."
That's why anyone considered a member of the Bolt family is precious to them. And that's why, when Moldenhauer was in a wheelchair, after the accident, Michael and Jon Bolt couldn't abandon him. Said Jon: "On Sundays, we'd take Greg out for lunches and malt shakes at Potbelly's and then to the movie theater [at Fairfax Corner]."
He was pleased that Moldenhauer got only six months in jail but, he said, "I wish it wasn't anything." The Bolts also plan to continue their relationship with him and, said John, "I'll go visit him in jail whenever I can."