Heatley gets probation for teammate's death

Friday, February 4th 2005, 11:03 am

By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley was sentenced Friday to three years of probation and must give 150 speeches about the dangers of speeding after pleading guilty in the death of teammate Dan Snyder in a car accident.

Heatley pleaded guilty to four of the six charges he faced. In exchange, the only felony charge _ first-degree vehicular homicide _ was dropped along with a charge of reckless driving.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding for the Sept. 29, 2003, car crash in Atlanta that killed his 25-year-old teammate.

``The mistake I made that night was speeding,'' Heatley said at the sentencing. ``This mistake will stay with me the rest of my life.''

Police estimated that Heatley, the MVP of the 2003 NHL All-Star game, was driving his black Ferrari convertible on a curved road in a residential area when it ran into a brick pillar and iron fence. Police estimated he was driving between 60 mph and 90 mph. Authorities said Heatley had consumed some alcohol but was not intoxicated. Snyder, a passenger, died after several days in a coma.

If the case went to trial and Heatley was convicted on all counts, the hockey star would have faced up to 20 years in prison and fines totaling $5,000. The plea deal also allowed Heatley, a Canadian citizen, to avoid any threat of deportation, and therefore should not affect his ability to play in the NHL. The players have been locked out this season and the season is on the verge of cancellation.

Snyder's father, Graham, and brother, Jake, both testified but agreed they didn't want Heatley to go to jail or lose his hockey career. The judge took that into consideration.

``As a parent, it's hard to explain how you feel about losing your son. My pride in Dan was immeasurable,'' Graham Snyder said. ``We will all miss him. So how do we move on from here? Forgiveness in our hearts has helped us move on. We forgive because Dany has shown remorse to his family.''

``Dany has a burden that he will carry for the rest of his life,'' he added.

Jake Snyder said in a statement that Heatley was someone his brother counted on.

``I know he never intended for this to happen. I don't want to see my friend go to prison, I know Dan would feel the same way,'' Jake Snyder said.

Heatley, who was born in Germany, was drafted by the Thrashers second overall in the 2000 NHL entry draft. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2001-02 season.

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