After pleading guilty to a life-altering crash, Samuel Mark Phillips “left the room with the forgiveness” of Cory Buckley’s family and a 7-year prison sentence, his attorney Arturo Corso said.
Phillips, 33, of Flowery Branch, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree vehicular homicide and other charges in a May 24, 2015, collision killing Buckley, a CASA supervisor.
“There was a lot of energy in the room, a lot of sadness in the room and somehow there was also a lot of forgiveness in the room,” Corso said.
The first seven years of Phillips’ 30-year sentence will be in confinement, according to the sentencing arrangements. The rest of his sentence will be on probation.
Buckley was a supervisor for Hall-Dawson CASA, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates who give input in juvenile cases on the child’s best interest.
“The life of Cory Buckley is missed everyday by her family, her friends, her co-workers and particularly the children she served with CASA,” former Hall-Dawson CASA Director Connie Stephens said.
Buckley’s husband, Warren, suffered injuries to his leg in the wreck on Browns Bridge Road. According to Georgia State Patrol, Phillips’ Chevrolet Trailblazer crossed the center line and struck the Buckleys’ Chevrolet Malibu. Two grandchildren were also in the Chevrolet Malibu.
Cory Buckley died in June 2015.
In a December 2015 indictment, Phillips was charged with three counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence, reckless driving and failure to maintain lane.
At the hearing Tuesday, Phillips took the stand for an hour to tell the judge of his “metamorphosis from the young, selfish alcohol addict to now a mature, selfless lover of God and lover of peace,” Corso said.
Corso said his client has been in a residential rehabilitation program for 18 months.
“He’s teaching others about sobriety,” he said. “He’s saving other young alcoholics’ lives.”
Buckley’s family members spoke directly to Phillips and ultimately granted forgiveness, saying they harbored no ill will to the Flowery Branch man, Corso said.
“We all feel personally that justice was served,” Stephens said. “No amount of prison time can bring Cory back. This is a lesson to us all that the consequences of drinking and driving devastate lives on both sides of the family.”
According to court documents, Phillips must surrender his driver’s license.