BALTIMORE — A Baltimore County judge allowed a driver who pleaded guilty in last year’s deadly Baltimore Beltway crash that killed six road construction workers out of jail and ordered that he serve the remainder of his sentence on home detention.

Melachi Brown, 21, of Windsor Mill served a fraction of his 18-month sentence for felony manslaughter at the Baltimore County Detention Center. His lawyer told the court he had anxiety and depression and feared he would be attacked behind bars.

Jim DiMaggio, the brother of victim Sybil DiMaggio, expressed outrage at the decision.

“You get a slap on the wrist if you do something bad, and it’s not even a slap. They take half of it back. There’s just no consequences,” DiMaggio told WJZ.

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On March 23, 2023, Brown and another driver were traveling at more than 100 mph when they collided in the northbound lanes of the Baltimore Beltway’s inner loop, sending one of the cars careening through a 150-foot gap in a work zone’s protective concrete barrier. The vehicle flipped on top of the construction workers.

In addition to DiMaggio, 46, the crash claimed the lives of Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick; Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick; Mahlon Simmons III, 30, of Union Bridge; and Mahlon Simmons II, 52, of Union Bridge.

Brown, 21, pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter earlier this year in the deaths.

The judge in March sentenced Brown to 60 years, suspending all time but 1 ½ years in the Baltimore County Detention Center, plus three years’ supervised probation. He was also sentenced to perform 40 hours of community service, complete a victim-impact program and abstain from driving while on supervision.

The sentence amounted to three months for each victim.

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“I’m astonished. I cannot believe that my sister’s life was worth a sentence originally of three months, and now she’s letting him sit on his couch at home to serve his sentence. It’s unbelievable,” Jim DiMaggio said. “He caused an accident that caused my sister to be hit by another car and thrown over 100 feet and now he gets to sit at home.”

At the brief hearing, Brown again told the judge he was sorry.

“I would just please ask you to spare me. I’m not a danger to society,” he said.

Brown’s lawyer, Jennifer Kafes, argued that he faced harassment, threats of violence and intimidation behind bars.

“He’s in serious threat from imminent bodily harm,” Kafes said.

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She described her client as well-mannered and soft-spoken.

“I don’t care what he’s going through. I really want things to be worse for him. My sister is not alive anymore because of careless, reckless speeding and driving. There are no words to describe what I feel right now,” Jim DiMaggio said.

Authorities say Brown was traveling at a speed of 111 mph when his 2017 Volkswagen Jetta was sideswiped by a 2017 Acura TLX driven by Lisa Adrienne Lea of Randallstown, who was trying to move into the passing lane.

Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts told Brown, “For a person such as you who has stepped up, who has not been identified as the primary cause … I believe it is appropriate to take [this] action.”

But DiMaggio said, “They were both speeding. They were fighting for positions on the highway — on the highway that we all drive. It could’ve been one of us. It could’ve been anybody. It was my sister and five other people.”

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He showed WJZ a picture of his sister that he had held in front of the judge.

“She loved life. She just loved life. She loved being outside. She loved being part of the construction company. She was scared to death of being on that site for obvious reasons,” DiMaggio said. “She was just a good person.”

Brown said in court that he is still hurt by his actions that day and will never speed again.

The judge noted that she did not reduce his sentence, just shifted where he will spend it.

After home detention, Brown still has supervised probation and community service to complete. He is not allowed to drive.

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Brown’s attorney declined an interview.

The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office opposed the shift to home detention.

Lea, who was 54 at the time of the crash, is charged with manslaughter and related offenses. The judge last year ordered her released on home detention pending trial, noting that she experiences health issues. Lea told federal investigators that she suffered a seizure before the crash. Her next court date is Sept. 3.

Crews plan to resume work next month at the site, part of a project to modify 17 miles of the Beltway to convert the inside shoulder into a travel lane in each direction during rush hour.

Banner staff contributed to this report.

WJZ is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner.