Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 8, 2012

2011 death of Bluefield High School student: Flack gets max sentence

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Click here for story

A Mercer County man who pleaded guilty to his role in the 2011 death of a 17-year-old Bluefield resident listened during his sentencing Wednesday as the victim’s father told him about the pain inflicted on an entire family.

Joseph Flack Jr., 45, of Bluefield pleaded guilty last August to felony charges of voluntary manslaughter, burglary and conspiracy. He was one of four people who were arrested after the January 2011 shooting death of Matthew Flack, 17, at his Magnolia Street home. The Bluefield High School student died after being shot during a home invasion and robbery.

Judge Omar Aboulhosn sentenced Joseph Flack Jr. to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter, one to 10 years for burglary and one to five years for conspiracy. The sentences will run consecutively.

Before pronouncing sentence in Mercer County Circuit Court, Aboulhosn asked the Flack family if anyone wanted to address the court. Matthew Flack’s father, David Flack, took the stand and addressed one of the men responsible for his son’s death.

“I want the court to consider the fact that Joseph Flack (Jr.) was the oldest person involved in this situation,” David Flack said.

Joseph Flack Jr., who is blind, stayed outside in a car while Matthew Flack’s cousin  Brandon Flack, 21, Jasmen Montgomery, 27, and Jacob Thomas, now 19, all of Pulaski, Va., entered the house.

Brandon Flack was convicted in April of first-degree murder with mercy and sentenced to life with mercy. Montgomery pleaded guilty to first degree murder with mercy. A sentence of life imprisonment with mercy means that parole after 15 years is possible, but not guaranteed.

In August, Joseph Flack Jr. pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, burglary and conspiracy. Thomas, who was a juvenile at the time, waived his juvenile status and agreed to plead guilty to the same charges, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash said at the time of the Joseph Flack Jr. plea.

David Flack repeatedly and forcefully pointed out to his relative that he was the senior person present when plans were made to rob the Magnolia Street home, but did nothing to discourage them or warn police about their plot.

“You should have been the one to lead them in the right direction and say this is absolutely ridiculous,” David Flack said angrily, adding that being blind was no excuse.

“You may be blind physically, but you are not blind mentally,” he emphasized. “There was nothing in that house that I would not have given you except the life of my first-born son.”

Matthew Flack was a popular student who planned to attend Marshall University and study psychology. His death is a loss to the family, his friends, fellow students and the community, David Flack said.

“There’s no words to explain how hurt I am here,” he stated. “The actions you chose that day proves we are no kin at all. All four of you created the hell you are about to receive. You brought it on yourself. I am no kin to you.”

David Flack said he wanted the court to impose the maximum penalty available.

“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. I expect the court to give you the maximum on this. You’re the coward here, Joe. You had the opportunity to set those young kids on the right path.”

Attorney Harold Wolfe, who represented Joseph Flack Jr. along with attorney Jay Williams, said there were still facts that were in dispute, adding that the fact his client was blind limited any role he could have had in the murder. Jacob Thomas told investigators that Joseph Flack Jr. had tried to talk them out of the crime, pointing out that they were all drunk and adding, “we don’t need to do this.”

Before the judge pronounced sentence, Flack rose and addressed the court.

“I’d like to apologize,” he said. “It was a bad night. Terrible decisions were made. I would like to apologize to the victims.”

Judge Aboulhosn told the defendant that he was not a suitable candidate for probation or alternative sentencing. Joseph Flack Jr. was blinded in 2000 after being shot during a drug deal that went bad.

Based on that experience, he should have known that a robbery attempt could get out of control and result in somebody’s death.

“You were the adult in this group,”  Aboulhosn said. “You did not do a single thing to stop it. As a result, the life of a promising young man was lost. There’s no question you have not learned and will never learn your lesson. Losing your eyesight should have put you on the straight and narrow.”

Flack could possibly be eligible for parole in five and a half years, Ash said after the hearing. Aboulhosn pointed out to Flack that he had repeatedly violated terms of probation in previous cases, so parole “would not be wise.”

Joseph Flack Jr. was remanded back to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver pending his transfer to a state prison.