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Drug-impaired driving draws prison term

A judge Monday sentenced a 24-year-old Akron woman to two to six years in state prison for her drug-impaired driving that injured two motorists in Clarence earlier this year.

"I'm so sorry," a tearful Angela M. Haas said in the courtroom before Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka sentenced her. "I never meant to hurt [anybody].

"I don't know how to say it," Haas said. "I'm sorry for what they had to go through."

Haas, who in June pleaded guilty to felony charges of first-degree vehicular assault and aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, had faced a maximum of seven years in prison.

The sister of one victim said she was pleased by the sentence.

"I was afraid she would just be sent to rehab," said Lorie M. Szalkowski of Blasdell. "I'm so happy she's going to jail."

Pietruszka also ordered Haas to spend five years on supervised probation after her release.

Haas, while under the influence of drugs, was driving on Main Street when she crossed over the double yellow lines and struck head-on a car carrying Kevin and Linda Bennett of Holland, said Kelley A. Omel, chief of the Erie County District Attorney's Office's Vehicular Crimes Bureau.

Linda Bennett, 55, a social worker, spent three months in a hospital and nursing home, her husband and sister said in victim-impact statements they made before sentencing.

Kevin Bennett, 56, said he and his wife are still recovering from the physical and emotional injuries.

While Haas faces six years in jail, Linda Bennett faces many more years of living with the effects of her injuries, Szalkowski said. She can't kneel in church. She's no longer able to hike. She can't lift bags of mulch while tending to her daylilies, she said of her sister.

"There is no compensation that will make up" for her ordeal and the injuries she suffered, Szalkowski said.

Haas was convicted of alcohol-impaired driving in 2008 in Schenectady, said Omel, who recommended the judge put Haas in prison.

Kevin Stadelmaier, the lawyer who represented Haas, urged the judge to place her in an intensive substance abuse treatment center for a year.

"She needs treatment," said Stadelmaier, calling his client an addict who has taken cocaine and heroin in addition to marijuana and alcohol.

After the sentencing, Stadelmaier said Haas would have substance abuse programs available to her in prison, although not as good as the ones outside prison.

In addition to her alcohol-impaired conviction, Haas has been arrested numerous times for disorderly conduct and harassment and spent short stints in local jails.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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