In an emotionally charged courtroom, Michael Malmkar, 22, of North Platte, was sentenced Monday to up to 10 years imprisonment for motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an injury accident. Trouble began for Malmkar June 17, 2011 when he hit and killed bicyclist Levern Allan Walter, 56, while driving on State Farm Road on the south side of North Platte. Alcohol was suspected to be a factor.
Malmkar later underwent treatment in Lincoln for alcohol and drug abuse, but near the end of his treatment he burglarized a restaurant while living in a halfway house.
He has been jailed in Lincoln County since January 2012.
He stood before Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands Monday to face sentencing in the death of Walters.
About 20 family members of the victim sat in the first three rows of the courtroom.
Before sentencing, defense attorney Robert Lindemeier asked the court to consider that this was not deliberate act, but an “irresponsible and negligent act by a scared young man.”
Lindemeier noted that Malmkar was an Eagle Scout.
“He’s a good kid that made a terrible mistake,” Lindemeier said. “It haunts him every day and you really should sentence him as a person.”
Lindemeier cited a past accident involving police officers in which two were killed and the responsible driver was only sentenced to probation.
“This does not call for the maximum sentence,” Lindemeier said. “Michael was scared and took off from the scene. He later came in and told police all that had happened.”
Lindemeier spoke about Malmkar’s prior offenses and said he definitely has an alcohol problem, but said that Malmkar is a responsible person at core.
“He will do something and then later take full responsibility for it,” Lindemeier said.
He asked for minimum sentences for the crimes, and that they be served concurrently (at the same time.)
Lindemeier also asked Rowlands to take note of several letters that were written to the court, supporting Malmkar.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling made no comment.
When it was time for sentencing, Rowlands told Malmkar “this is an obviously a tragic case.”
“It’s the result of your bad judgment that this resulted in a tragic accident in which someone out for a bicycle ride ended up dead,” Rowland said. “Had you come before me today showing you had completed treatment and with good evaluations, a lesser sentence could be considered.”
“Your prior record and the incidents after your arrest on this does not make probation appropriate,” Rowland said. “That would send the wrong message to the public -- that one can commit something like this and only get probation.”
Rowlands sentenced Malmkar to 4-5 years on the motor vehicle homicide and 2-5 years for leaving the scene. The sentences will run consecutively, so Malmkar faces 6-10 years.
Malmkar was credited for a year and 17 days that he has already served.
Lindemeier appeared dejected and exhausted after the sentence was pronounced. He moved off by himself in the courtroom, removed his glasses and rubbed his face.
On the other hand, Walter family members also reacted negatively, often shaking their heads while Rowlands spelled out the sentence.
Roberta Walter, the wife of Levern, started to speak but court officials did not allow it. She left the court room in tears and other family members followed, seemingly angry.
Even though prisoners usually remain in court for other cases, this time Malmkar was removed from the courtroom by jailers promptly after sentencing.