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For Sonoma cyclist’s widow, meeting husband’s killer changed her life

Nov 12, 2012

from the article by Chris Smith in the Press Democrat:

For many months, Patty O’Reilly plotted and rehearsed and steeled herself for the perfect act of vengeance on the man who killed her husband on a rural Santa Rosa road in 2004.

On the appointed day, O’Reilly strode into Folsom Prison. Led to a small room, she took a seat across a table from Michael Albertson, who’d been an enraged alcoholic when his careening pickup slammed into the bicycle Danny O’Reilly, 43, was riding toward home in Sonoma.

In the prison room, Patty O’Reilly looked straight at Albertson, who is serving a 14-year sentence. Sparing no details, she recounted for him the horrors and sorrow he’d inflicted on her and her daughters, who were 12 and 7 when a deputy sheriff bearing grim news knocked on the door on the worst day of their lives.

....That four-hour meeting at Folsom, inspired by the concept of restorative justice and arranged by the state’s Victim-Offender Mediated Dialogue Program, happened six years ago, in 2006.

O’Reilly left feeling that true vengeance was served because her understanding of the origins of the word pertained not to eye-for-an-eye revenge but the bringing of a transgressor to full justice, nothing more or less.

O’Reilly, 47, said her long and emotional exchange with Albertson assured her that he grasps the horrific impacts of his actions and that he regrets and takes responsibility for them. She heard subsequently from a coordinator of the prison Mediated Dialogue program that Albertson told others on several occasions that the encounter was powerfully beneficial to him.

In fact, O’Reilly said, “Mike will say that I saved his life.”

And it changed hers. She was so struck by the potential of restorative justice to help both the victims and perpetrators of crime to advance their lives that she became a volunteer in the victim-offender program at San Quentin.

Read the whole article.

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