Steven R. Cavarello, about to be released from jail after serving 4 1/2 months for an accident that cost a young woman her leg, asked his victim for forgiveness Thursday as a judge ordered him to spend 1,000 hours speaking to groups about the dangers of driving under the influence.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia sentenced Cavarello to only six months behind bars at the urging of Sarah J. Gregory, whose left leg was severed when Cavarello slammed into her while under the influence of drugs. Under the state's "good time" sentencing guidelines, that means Cavarello will be released this week, having already served more than two-thirds of the sentence.
The judge also fined Cavarello, 30, of Electric Avenue, Lackawanna, $6,325 and -- again at Gregory's suggestion -- imposed the community service requirement to speak to groups over the next five years about the dangers of driving drunk or high.
Gregory's left leg was severed when Cavarello's vehicle slammed into her on South Park Avenue at about 2:20 p.m. last Sept. 17 as she was walking back to work. The victim, who uses a wheelchair, came to court with her husband and spoke tearfully at times about how she "almost died" and said she really came to court to speak on behalf of Cavarello's "next victim."
With the judge ordering Cavarello to turn and look at her in her wheelchair, Gregory, 31, said she can clearly recall Cavarello's car "barreling down on me" and seeing her leg "completely severed from my body" as the driver just sat in his car and looked at her.
"You did nothing to help me," she said, getting tearful in recounting the two months she spent hospitalized and away from her newborn daughter. Noting she still feels "phantom pain" where her leg had been, Gregory told Cavarello she hopes he thinks about "what you stole from me for the rest of your life."
Under orders from the judge, Cavarello turned to Gregory and told her, "I can't begin expressing how sorry I am. I was clearly on a path to destruction" by drug use.
The judge, commenting on Gregory's "incredible compassion," also barred Cavarello from consuming illegal drugs or alcohol for the next five years and to submit to testing and counseling if ordered. He warned Cavarello he faces a prison term of up to four years if he violates any of the terms of his probation.
Kelley A. Omel, chief of the district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Unit, said Cavarello pleaded guilty to the highest charge that could be filed against him -- felony vehicular assault -- as well as a misdemeanor driving while impaired by drug charge.
Defense lawyers Nicholas T. Texido and Kenneth F. Case said the unemployed college graduate had been high on a prescription substitute for heroin and as well as an antidepressant drug when his vehicle slammed into Gregory.
Gregory's attorney Stephen Boyd said he and his legal team expect to file a civil suit over the incident "withing the next month."
"My expectation is that Steven Cavarello is not going to be the only defendant," Boyd said, declining further comment.