Lawson gets 50 years for shooting Stateline bartender |

Lawson gets 50 years for shooting Stateline bartender

by Scott Murphy Staff Writer

Saying a more violent murder attempt was difficult to imagine, District Judge Dave Gamble sentenced Donald Ray Lawson on Tuesday to up to 50 years in prison for the February shooting of Stateline bartender James McGeehan.

Lawson, 32, is not eligible for parole for 20 years.

Lawson pleaded guilty May 9 to felony attempted murder and mayhem.

On the morning of Feb. 6, seven days after a tailgating incident between the two men on Kingsbury Grade, an intoxicated Lawson was slashing McGeehan’s truck tires when a confrontation started. Lawson shot McGeehan, court records say.

Family members asked Gamble for the maximum sentence during Lawson’s two-hour sentencing hearing.

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci said McGeehan, a former bartender at Mott Canyon Tavern & Grill, was recently hospitalized again and still wears leg braces after the shooting, which left him with seven gunshot wounds to the chest and legs and two partially amputated fingers.

Lawson and his attorney, Derrick M. Lopez, pleaded for a lighter sentence.

However, Lawson’s plea to Gamble that “giving (him) the maximum won’t do any good,” did not sit well with Gamble.

The judge said he found the remark the “least impressive” and said he wasn’t there “to do you any good.”

“I’m here to do you bad,” he said.

Gamble also said testimony from a pre-sentencing investigation which showed there was no indication Lawson was capable of such an act was part of the defendant’s problem.

“There was no way to predict this, and therein lies the danger,” Gamble said. “No criminal has ever told me he thought he would (commit a crime) again. This was absolutely asinine behavior.”

Also, because of McGeehan’s prolonged and limited recovery, the victim “will suffer the longest for this,” no matter what sentence Gamble issued, he said.

The judge also ordered Lawson to pay $727,300 in restitution for McGeehan’s medical bills.

McGeehan was unable to attend the hearing because of his injuries, Salvucci said.

Lawson began his plea for leniency by saying he was “not an animal,” and said he is “haunted every night by the incident.”

Lawson added he wishes he could turn back time or trade places with McGeehan.

By accepting the plea agreement, Lawson avoided trial on seven likely felony counts of battery with a deadly weapon and conceivably an attempted murder charge for each of the 15 shots fired.

During a taped interview with Douglas County deputies following his arrest, Lawson said he was afraid of McGeehan after the initial encounter and brought his pistol to slash the native Pennsylvanian’s tires in case of a confrontation.

Lopez said Lawson obtained a concealed weapon after a previous tailgating incident in April 1999.

Lawson drove a 1977 Ford Econoline van which forced him to drive slowly on Kingsbury Grade, which frequently angered other drivers, Lopez said.

A Jan. 30 incident between McGeehan and Lawson was detailed during court Tuesday.

Lawson said McGeehan followed closely behind his van. This angered Lawson, who slowed down further, which upset McGeehan.

After McGeehan illegally passed Lawson on Kingsbury Grade, the two men exchanged hand gestures.

Lawson then drove faster and followed McGeehan to his South Benjamin Street home.

After parking in his driveway, McGeehan motioned for Lawson to exit his van.

Lawson did not, but told deputies the incident upset him and “made him feel like a punk kid.”

A week later, after drinking several shots of alcohol and about five beers, Lawson drove home at about 2 a.m. and saw McGeehan’s truck.

He parked nearby and began slashing the truck’s tires.

McGeehan heard his tires popping, ran down three flights of stairs, wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt and yelled “I’m going to get you for that.”

Lawson told deputies he then pulled his pistol from the back of his pants and showed it to McGowan, expecting to scare him.

Instead, “he just stood there, and I began firing,” Lawson said.

The gun misfired, but at least seven bullets struck McGeehan.

McGeehan’s uncle, Connell McGeehan, told Gamble his nephew was no longer the “virile, athletic and aggressive man” he was before.

“He can longer tie a tie or perform bodily functions without assistance,” McGeehan said. “We don’t know if he’ll ever be restored.”