Published on March 19th, 2013 | by Daniel R. Perlman0
Locane sentence in fatal drunk driving case sparks controversy
Amy Locane-Bovenizer could barely contain a smile when Superior Court Judge Robert Reed handed down his sentence.
The former actress, now a wife and mother of two daughters, will spend no more than three years in state prison for the crime of driving drunk and killing Helene Seeman, 60, on the night of June 27, 2010.
Locane-Bovenizer‘s blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit. Minutes before the fatal accident in Montgomery that also seriously injured Seeman’s husband, Fred, Locane-Bovenizer had rear-ended another vehicle and fled from the minor fender-bender.
The sentence was the minimum that Reed could have imposed and ignited fury among the victim’s family, as well among the public, which for two years had followed the high-profile criminal case involving a former TV and film actress.
While Reed saw this case “speaking to the issue of the scourge of drunk driving in this country,” his sentence brought the spotlight onto the subject of judges’ discretion in considering aggravating and mitigating factors when handing down sentences. The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office might announce next week whether or not it intends to appeal.
“To receive a minimum sentence like this for killing another human being with this crime, they certainly have every right to feel dismayed about this sentence,” said Jan Withers, president of the national advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
If Reed had followed state sentencing guidelines for second-degree crimes – a Somerset County jury in November convicted the Hopewell resident of vehicular manslaughter – Locane-Bovenizer would have faced up to five years but no more than 10 years in state prison. Reed, however, chose to take mitigating factors into consideration and instead handed down a third-degree sentence.The state’s No Early Release Law, which requires convicts to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole, ensures that Locane-Bovenizer will remain locked up for at least 2 1/2 years.
Reed said he took into account the defendant’s relatively clean record, her ongoing treatment for alcohol abuse, and that she was the primary caretaker of a 4-year-old daughter who suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition that affects the digestive tract.
Family doctors wrote to the judge to say that the girl had regressed in her condition and therapists reported that she had grown defiant of authority during her mother’s stay in Somerset County Jail since her conviction 2 1/2 months earlier. The daughter lives with her father.
While Reed did not believe that Locane-Bovenizer’s drunk driving that night was an isolated incident, he felt that she had “at long last … embarked on a life of sobriety” because she joined Alcoholics Anonymous after the accident. He felt that she presented “a minimal risk only” of repeating the offense.
“This court’s decision was the consequence of careful consideration under all the applicable criteria as permitted, and indeed as required, by our law,” Reed said before adjourning.
Source: The Daily Record “
Locane sentence in fatal drunk-driving case sparks controversy,” March 15, 2013.