LOCKPORT – The father of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in a one-car wreck on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation last year called the driver of the car a “psychopath” Friday as she was sentenced to a short jail term and five years’ probation.
Taylor J. Clause, 19, of Steele Circle, Town of Niagara, will serve six months in the Niagara County Jail, which will be shortened to four months with good behavior behind bars. The sentence was agreed upon when Clause pleaded guilty April 4.
But State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. warned her, “If you violate any terms of the sentence, you’re facing 15 years in prison.”
The victim’s father, Dr. Stephen M. Dubuc, said if Clause doesn’t obey, “There is a special place reserved for psychopaths in the state penitentiary. There’s always room for one more.”
Fifteen years is the maximum sentence for first-degree vehicular manslaughter, the charge to which Clause pleaded guilty, along with a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated. Kloch also imposed fines and fees totaling $5,410.
Jasmin P. Dubuc, 19, died about 5:50 a.m. May 19, 2013, on Walmore Road, when the 2009 Mazda 3 driven by Clause went out of control while rounding a curve. It struck a utility pole and rolled over several times, ejecting Dubuc, Clause and another passenger, Jasmine A. Rickard, then 18, of Upper Mountain Road on the reservation. State Police said no one in the car was wearing a seat belt.
Clause’s blood alcohol content was measured at .018 percent in a hospital blood sample after the wreck. She also was accused of having marijuana in her system.
Dubuc died at the scene. The victim’s aunt, Evelyn Rehm, told Kloch, “The blue tarp covering Jazz blew up and I got to see a sight that will haunt me forever: her crushed head.”
Rickard suffered relatively minor injuries, while Clause was critically hurt.
Defense attorney Joel L. Daniels said Clause suffered several skull fractures and was placed in a medically induced coma for 2½ weeks, part of the six weeks she spent in Erie County Medical Center.
She also had lower back fractures, a lacerated liver and had to have her gall bladder removed, Daniels said, adding that Clause has had several procedures to remove scar tissue that built up in her throat around a tracheotomy hole, and will need more tissue removed.
“She’s in pain now, emotionally, physically,” Daniels said. “She’ll have that pain every day for the rest of her life, to remind her of what happened on Walmore Road in Lewiston.”
Jasmin Dubuc left behind a son, Chase J. Dubuc, who was 43 days old when his mother was killed. Her parents are raising the baby.
Stephen Dubuc, a chiropractor, said Jasmin wasn’t sure what she would become, but he said, “The reckless indifference of Taylor Clause pulled that door (shut).”
The victim’s father told the tearful Clause, “In our eyes, you’ve shown no remorse … On the first anniversary of Jasmin’s death, you posted on Facebook about how far you’ve come and how perfect your life is now.”
“I want to say how sorry I am,” Clause said. “I don’t know everything that happened that night, but I know we lost a wonderful person.”
Rehm said, “Please do not tell us how sorry you are. That ship has sailed.”
The Dubucs have a civil suit pending against Clause and her father, Morley A. Clause III, who owned the Mazda that crashed.
Dr. Dubuc said the sentence is “hardly fitting in our eyes,” but as he explained after the plea in April, Daniels was left a legal opening to contest who was driving the car.
Rickard was the only living witness, and she has a DWI record of her own, including an arrest in the Town of Lockport Jan. 4 after a hit-and-run injury accident in which police accused her of falsely saying she wasn’t driving. On cross-examination at a trial, Daniels would have had ammunition to impeach her credibility.
Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said the plea deal was “an imperfect solution,” based on what he called “certain problems with the proof.”
“We deal with the world as it is, not the world as we wish it would be,” Brenner said in court. “I hope Ms. Clause takes advantage of her opportunity, otherwise we’re just going to be back here (in court).”
Dr. Dubuc warned Clause, “You still have five years of probation and we’re going to be watching, along with a whole community that pulled behind us.”
Clause is barred from drinking, driving, or leaving the house except for work, school or medical treatment. She must wear an ankle bracelet for as long as her probation officer thinks she should.