Finally, some approximation of justice has been secured for Barry Moss. The 52-year-old handyman from Evans was struck by an SUV whose driver, Gabriele Ballowe, callously fled the scene, leaving him to die in the December cold three years ago.
Ballowe, who worked hard to conceal her guilt, was sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday, two months after she pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. But that plea came only after a change in district attorney, the discovery of new evidence and a plea bargain whose concessions extracted an admission of guilt but a penalty that does not, in any way, reflect the seriousness of her crime.
Just for starters, witnesses say she was eating and drinking for a couple of hours before the accident and was likely intoxicated. She appeared to stumble as she left and refused a waitress’s offer of a ride.
After striking Moss and fleeing the scene – running a stop sign in the process, according to a witness – she took her gray 2013 Ford Explorer to a body shop in Dunkirk, 20 miles away, rather than one of many that were much closer to her home.
Moss’ body was found three years ago this Thursday. In the intervening years, Ballowe acknowledged nothing, even as her victim’s family coped with grief and loss, all but certain that Ballowe had killed him but with justice agonizingly out of reach.
Last year, things began to unravel for Ballowe. She settled a civil lawsuit with Moss’ family, and while she didn’t admit guilt, she essentially confirmed what most people already knew to be true. She killed a man, drove away and showed no signs of remorse.
Her luck ran out, finally, when former District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III left the office for a judgeship. Sedita had instructed a grand jury to drop its indictment of Ballowe, contending that the evidence was insufficient. That’s what happened, despite the vigorous protests of the police who investigated the crime. But Sedita’s successor, Interim District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr., reopened the case this year, produced new evidence and secured her guilty plea.
At her sentencing Tuesday, Ballowe told the court that she was plagued by guilt from the start. She said she made “a terrible mistake that will haunt me forever” and that she “should have stopped.” She said she had been praying for her victim’s family since “day one.”
Maybe that’s all true. Only she can really know. But if it is, no one would have guessed it based on nearly three years of silence that was followed, on the day she pleaded guilty, by her quibbling with the court about whether she “fled the scene” of the accident or “drove off” from it.
For all of that, Ballowe will spend a year in county jail, not the years she deserves in a state prison. She should be required to serve every day of the sentence. Her behavior there and in subsequent years will demonstrate the depth of whatever remorse she may feel.
Some people turn to educating others to warn them off their mistakes. They speak frankly to school assemblies, service clubs, church organizations – anyone who will listen – in a lifelong mission dedicated to sparing others the grief they caused and the price they paid. Others shrug and pick up more or less where they left off.
Perhaps it will be the former. But whatever it is, she will be alive and Barry Moss will still be dead.