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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: June 19, 2015
A man's hands are seen behind bars in a jail cell - Leckerman Law, LLC

Former Philadelphia Police Sgt. Thomas Winkis was involved in a fatal crash one night in 2013. He was travelling at a speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour when another driver pulled out in front of him who was turning onto State from Ashburner Street in Holmesburg.

According to police present at the scene that night, the sergeant seemed sober. The officer at the scene told that Farries pulled out in front of him as he was driving 35 to 40 m.p.h.

However, when a prosecutor provided evidence stating that he was legally intoxicated in a hearing on Monday, Winkis pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter drunken driving. The prosecutor also stated that Winkis’ vehicle hit the other driver at a speed of 101 mph.

The other driver, identified as 56-year-old David Farries, who was driving a Ford Econoline conversion van, was ejected from the van. He died three days later at Aria-Health Torresdale Campus without regaining consciousness. His daughter, who was present at Mondays hearing, said that her father’s death left a void in her life and her children’s life.

Winkis wiped away tears with his head bowed as Farries’ daughter, Christine Farries, talked at the hearing. “My father didn’t want to die, but he didn’t have a choice. Thomas made that choice for him. He was supposed to protect us; he was a police officer,” she told the judge through tears.

“I’m truly sorry for the loss of Mr. Farries to his family,” said Winkis, who is a 21-year police veteran. “I truly hope my actions today bring some closure to them,” he told Common Pleas Court Judge Rosemarie DeFino-Nastasi. Winkis is the divorced father of three teenage children. He worked in special investigations and homeland security, and retired immediately after the accident.

A surveillance video presented at the hearing showed Winkis had nine beers and three shots of liquor at the bar before he got in his car that day. He was sentenced to two to seven years in prison as part of a plea deal negotiated by his defense attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb.

The judge also asked Winkis to reimburse the cost of Farries’ funeral which amounted to $15,103. After his release, Winkis will be on probation for six months. He will also be required to attend a class on driving and alcohol.

Winkis was ordered to report to prison on 15 July by the judge and was also ordered not to drive.

According to Assistant Attorney Lipscomb, Winkis and a friend, identified as Gina D’Emilio, spent several hours drinking at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe at 9242 N. Delaware Ave on Sept. 14, 2013. They were present at the bar from about 7 to 11:30 p.m. after which they left together in Winkis’ 2002 Dodge Challenger and were headed north on State Road when the incident took place.

Winkis suffered a broken wrist in the accident and was taken to Aria-Health Torresdale for treatment. His blood tests showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, two hours after the crash, higher than the legal blood-alcohol level of 0.08 in Pennsylvania.

Farries’ blood sample was also taken for testing and showed evidence that he smoked marijuana but not enough to classify his driving as impaired, according to reports.

According to the crash data recorder in Winkis’ car and analysis of surveillance video from a boat dealer six-tenths of a mile from the crash, it was evident that Winkis was driving between 93 and 103 m.p.h. seconds before his car hit the van.

The incident took place at the Ashburner intersection which has a posted speed of 35 mph on that stretch. A yellow light was blinking at the intersection.

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