An admitted South Buffalo alcoholic today was sentenced to a prison term of five to 15 years for a drunken-driving auto accident that took the life of an 18-year-old St. Bonaventure University student and injured another girl.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia told a tearful Michael R. McCarthy that he imposed the maximum possible prison term on a July 1 guilty plea because, even though he is apparently remorseful, McCarthy still has to face the consequences of his actions.
It was McCarthy's third drunken driving incident in the past five years.
McCarthy, 28, of 34 Princeton Place, who has been jailed since March, pleaded guilty July 1 to a drunk driving-related charge of first-degree vehicular manslaughter, first-degree vehicular assault and felony unlicense driving.
Hours after getting out of jail on bail on other charges earlier last March 6, an already inebriated McCarthy kept drinking and took his car from the South Buffalo repair shop where he had been arrested earlier that day, court officials said.
He rammed a car driven by Kathleen Smith 20, of Buffalo head-on in the 2200 block of Seneca Street about 9 p.m. that night. A passenger in the Smith car, Karen Kwiatkowski, 18, of Blasdell, died at the scene of massive internal injuries.
Buscaglia listened to McCarthy tell of his regret and heard the fathers of Ms. Kwiatkowski and Ms. Smith describe their pain and Ms. Smith's continuing medical and psychological problems. The judge then told McCarthy today his drunken actions were "as close to intentional" as possible.
Noting the fatal drinking and driving incident was not a "one-time thing" for the admitted alcoholic, Buscaglia told McCarthy he is lucky that he couldn't be prosecuted for intentional manslaughter or murder and face a longer term.
Taking time to talk from the bench to a courtroom filled with the family and friends of the late Ms. Kwiatkowski, the judge said there was nothing he could say that will ease their pain and sorrow. But he assured them "she will live forever" in their hearts.
After the noontime sentencing, Robert Kwiatkowski, Karen's father, and his surviving daughter, Deanna, both said they doubt McCarthy's sincerity.
Kwiatkowski, a Veterans Administration claims adjuster and Karen's softball coach for 12 years, said the family's Roman Catholic religion taught them to "turn the other cheek" but he still has doubts about McCarthy.
"I don't think there's enough remorse in the world to replace my daughter, and I fear for the safety of Western New Yorkers when he gets out" of prison, Kwiatkowski said.