Schmidt Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Party Ranch Trial


Allen Lee Schmidt was found guilty of manslaughter Tuesday evening. The jury also found that the vehicle used in the incident should be considered a deadly weapon.

The jury was given instructions by the judge and deliberated for four hours with a one-hour break this evening.  In the trial, bar patron Allen Lee Schmidt  was accused of being one of two in a party that positioned a Chevrolet pickup in the path of Goodfellow AFB Marine Sergeant Donald Di Pietro. Di Pietro died after he collided with the truck while driving his Victory motorcycle down Christoval Road in front of the Party Ranch bar on March 10, 2013. The jury considered two charges. One was felony manslaughter, which implies recklessness. The second charge was criminally negligent homicide, a state felony.

The defendant took the stand this afternoon and stated that he arrived at the Party Ranch at about 5 and was there at the bar at 7:30 p.m. when the crash occurred. Within that timeframe, Schmidt said he drank no more than three beers. A video was shown in court of Schmidt drinking a beer at the bar with Malcolm McBurnett. “He asked if I would assist him to get his vehicle started…He said the battery, there was something wrong with it,” Schmidt testified. Schmidt told a TABC agent that he smelled alcohol on McBurnett and believed that he was intoxicated. McBurnett failed a field sobriety test some time after the crash incident. “I would like to say there are levels of how people are intoxicated,” Schmidt said. “I know that’s not an excuse. The reason I helped him is because that’s how I was raised. When somebody asks for help, you help them.”

After failing to start the truck with jumper cables, Schmidt assisted McBurnett in moving his truck by pushing it with his own. The trucks were nose-to-nose. “He was going to go backwards from where he was along the front of the bar, not the way he did,” Schmidt said. At some point the two men ceased pushing the truck to avoid oncoming traffic.

In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Richard Villarreal said this is the point that he knew risk was present and asked the jury to find Schmidt guilty of manslaughter. Villarreal played back video surveillance footage and paused when both trucks were visible on the screen just as McBurnett’s Chevy truck entered the roadway. Villarreal cited Schmidt’s knowledge of the traffic, the speed limit at 55 M.P.H., the fact that the road was not well lit, that the truck was disabled, and his knowledge that people live in the area when he addressed the jury. “He knows all [of] that at that point in time, when that vehicle is sitting on the edge of a roadway. You tell me whether or not a person that knows all that [knows] if there is a risk there,” Villarreal said.

Shortly after having stopped to allow traffic go by, Schmidt continued to push McBurnett’s truck into the roadway. He stated in court that it was not his intention to enter the street, and once he realized that the truck was there, he parked his own vehicle and told McBurnett that they would push McBurnett’s truck back into the parking lot. Schmidt said that McBurnett was unresponsive, and that two or three other people were warning McBurnett the same.

When the collision occurred, Schmidt said, “I was in the process of jumping out of the way. I went back to my vehicle to get it out of the way again… There were vehicles passing here and there… I didn’t want to cause another accident.”

Schmidt then returned to inside the bar and drank another couple of beers. Asked why he did not tell investigators that he had been involved in the crash, he said, “I couldn’t believe what just happened and I didn’t know what to do. I really don’t know… It was just a situation, the frame of mind I was in at the time.”

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years confinement or imprisonment, and an optional $10,000 fine. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to two years in prison and an optional $10,000 fine.

The state also asked the jury to consider a deadly weapon finding because the vehicle caused the death of Donald Di Pietro.

The sentencing phase begins tomorrow morning.

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It's an unfortunate accident but I'm not completely convinced this guy should serve a long prison sentence. I know, he was the cause of someone's death - a son, a brother, etc... If convicted, his ignorance was costly.
bebop, Tue, 08/19/2014 - 22:39
Two drunk guys pushing vehicles around on a dark highway. Recipe for disaster. And yes, I know the other one. Who overserved these gentlemen? Who watched? Those people are as much to blame.
jdgt, Wed, 08/20/2014 - 08:34
Nina Noelle... sounds like a stripper name, doesn't it? Do I think this ol' chap should have been charged with murder? No. He did not MURDER this kid. Should he be charged with anything? Yes... He witnessed an accident... he walked back in the bar and did NOTHING, knowing that there were injured people outside. According to him, he only had 3 beers - so he wasn't so drunk that he didn't know what was going on. He's not innocent - but he's not guilty of what he's been charged with.

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