Easthampton crash victims’ relatives call for maximum penalty

James Ainsworth plead guilty to 2 counts each of involuntary manslaughter and motor vehicle homicide

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) –  A Springfield man will find out next month how much prison time he’ll serve for a drug-induced crash that killed a father and daughter in Easthampton last summer.

In emotion-filled statements, the victim’s loved ones called for maximum sentences in the Hampshire County Superior Court “change-of-plea” hearing for James Ainsworth.

As the result of a plea agreement worked out between prosecutors and Ainsworth’s attorney, Ainsworth on Tuesday pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, and two counts of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of drugs. Prosecutors said Ainsworth had passed out on heroin on Route 5 in Easthampton last August 28th, and had a head-on collision with a motorcycle, killing 62 year old Edward McGrath and his 29 year old daughter Brittany.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said, “Earlier that afternoon they had traveled from Greenfield to Holyoke where, among other things, they had purchased and consumed a quantity of heroin. They also had consumed percocets earlier that day.”

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 15 to 20 years. Inadequate punishment, according to Brittany’s sister Chelsea, who called for 40 years in prison for the two most serious charges. “Please, your honor. Please give him two consecutive maximum sentences. Hold him accountable for the lives he has taken. I lost half my family. My father and my sister,” said Chelsea McGrath through her tears.

62 year-old Edward McGrath and his 29 year-old daughter Brittany McGrath are seen here in a photograph taken a short time before they were killed in a crash on Route 5 in Easthampton. Image Courtesy:  Jefferson C. Johnson
62 year-old Edward McGrath and his 29 year-old daughter Brittany McGrath are seen here in a photograph taken a short time before they were killed in a crash on Route 5 in Easthampton. Image Courtesy: Jefferson C. Johnson

That sentiment was echoed by Brittany’s grieving life partner, Juan Reinoso, “I don’t believe in the death penalty. But I also do not believe that Jamews Walter Ainsworth deserves anything less than to die in prison.”

Judge Bertha Josephson continued Ainsworth’s sentencing until August 13th, after she digests the Probation Department pre-sentencing report she ordered.

Judge Josephson told Ainsworth and the 50 McGrath family supporters who filled the courtroom that if she imposes a harsher sentence than prosecutors recommended, she said Ainsworth can withdraw his guilty plea and stand trial on the charges.

“If I am going to exceed the recommended sentence,” Judge Josephson said to Ainsworth, “then, as I am required to, I will let you withdraw your guilty plea and the case will proceed to trial.”

The sentencing will take place in Hampden County Superior Court in Springfield where Josephson will be sitting for the month of August.

Ainsworth will remain in custody on $100,000 bail as he has been since the day after the deadly crash.

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