Brian MacDonald was sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison Thursday, after he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of a 21-year-old college student outside a party at the victim’s Allston home.
Anthony Spaulding was stabbed to death in a fight over excessive noise and spilled champagne in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2013, during a New Year’s Eve party at his house on 48 Pratt Street. MacDonald, an uninvited guest at the party, was originally charged with second-degree murder, but jurors returned with a guilty verdict for voluntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
“You didn’t just murder Tony, my best friend, that night,” Ariana Taylor, Spaulding’s girlfriend, told MacDonald in a victim impact statement. “You murdered me, too.”
Taylor, fighting back tears, recounted how Spaulding whole-heartedly supported her as she chose to study design at a college across the country and made a lengthy commute to pick her up from the airport each and every time she came home to visit.
In the months since Spaulding’s death, Taylor has mourned not only the death of her boyfriend but the loss of an entire future. “Because of you, I’ll never get to marry the man I loved,” she told MacDonald. “I’ll never be able to have children with him.”
Many in the audience wept openly and nodded in approval throughout her statement. “Do you know what it feels like to be dead on the inside?” Taylor asked MacDonald, who sat stone-faced.
Connor Brown, Spaulding’s friend, told the court how the pair had bonded over their love of music while Brown was taking classes at the New England Institute of Art. The last thing he remembers his friend saying to him on the night of his death was, “Happy New Year,” delivered with Spaulding’s trademark grin.
“I now look at you with disgust,” Brown told MacDonald, saying that they welcomed MacDonald into their home that night. “You left me with depression and nightmares,” he said.
Brown told the court that he had begun learning to play guitar, in hopes of one day playing alongside Spaulding, an avid drummer. “I lost my favorite drummer,” he told the court through tears as he held up a photograph of Spaulding at his drum kit.
Cate Van Gelder, Spaulding’s sister, described her brother as “selfless, loving, brilliant and a million other things that I’ll never be.” She aches, she said, that he was not present for her wedding to walk her down the aisle, and that he won’t get to see Van Gelder’s first child. “He won’t be there for things I can’t predict but will certainly need him all the more for,” she said.
Van Gelder vowed not to preserve MacDonald in her memory. “We will leave here, and we will live, and we will love,” she told him, “and we will not think of you.”
Finally, Spaulding’s mother Chris addressed the court, displaying pictures of her son and their family on a projector screen. Her voice wavering, she said, “I’d give anything just for five minutes just to talk to him again.”
She looked out at the courtroom’s gallery, packed with Spaulding’s friends and family, including some of the young men and women who were with her son in his final moments. “I want to thank the boys who were there when he died,” she said. “I’ll love those boys forever.”
Of MacDonald, she said: “Put him in jail for a very long time.”
Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years, citing the “the vicious, violent, senseless actions of the defendant.” What MacDonald did “was horrific,” Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins said.
MacDonald’s attorney, Thomas Hoopes, asked Judge Janet Sanders to “be as merciful” as possible. “This is a life worth salvaging and saving,” he said.
“I have enormous sympathy” for Spaulding and his family and friends, Sanders said. She explained that the decision she made was an “extremely difficult one,” noting that she had referred to suggestions set by the state for sentences in cases such as MacDonald’s.
“I wish I could bring back Tony Spaulding,” the judge said, imposing a term of seven to 10 years in hopes that the defendant, after serving his time, could work to do some good in society.
After the sentencing, MacDonald was led out of the courtroom without a sound, still in shackles, head hung and legs dragging on the ground.
In the gallery, Spaulding’s family and friends wept in one another’s arms, some smiling and nodding, many linking arms and holding hands as they left the courtroom behind.