Mom protests DWI plea deal

06/17/2010 12:00 AM |


Picketing outside the Suffolk County criminal courthouse Monday, Dorothy Marino said a six-month jail sentence was too light for the woman who hit and killed her son while driving drunk.

The mother of the 15-year-old boy who was killed by a drunk driver in Hampton Bays last summer is protesting the plea bargain that has been offered to the Mattituck woman who struck her son.

Picketing outside the Suffolk County criminal courthouse on Monday, Dorothy Marino, mother of victim Joseph Marino, said the six-month jail sentence proposed for Caroline Goss in exchange for her guilty plea is too light.

Ms. Goss has admitted driving drunk and hitting the teenager. The district attorney’s office has said a reconstruction of the accident shows Joseph veered into the road just before he was hit.

“We felt like they were basically blaming the victim,” Ms. Marino said of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, which offered the plea bargain.

Ms. Goss, 34, was expected to be sentenced today, Thursday, after pleading guilty to a felony count of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor, endangering the welfare of a child and carrying an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, according to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Mr. Clifford said that, given witness testimony, it would be difficult to convict Ms. Goss should the case go to trial. She will serve six months in jail and be subject to five years of probation and to “drug and alcohol conditions,” he said.

“This certain result, given the evidence, is preferable to any other,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, Ms. Marino wore a red T-shirt that read “Justice for Joe” and held photos of her son. She said about a dozen protesters had shown up Monday, many also chanting, “Justice for Joe.” They were not there when she was interviewed.

She argued that Justice Gary Weber, the judge overseeing the case, would create a dangerous precedent by sentencing Ms. Goss to six months in jail, paving the way for reduced sentences in other drunk-driving-related deaths.

“He’s sending the wrong message,” Ms. Marino said. “By giving her six months, you’re creating a trickle-down effect.”

She said she is also pursuing a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Ms. Goss.

Ms. Goss’ Mattituck attorney, Anthony Palumbo said the proposed sentence was a “just result.”

“It’s a horrible accident … [but] as lawyers, we need to take the emotion out of it and evaluate it from a legal standpoint,” he said.

He said the family will be making a victim-impact statement to the judge today and added that the sentencing had not been “set in stone.”

Ms. Goss was driving a 2001 Jeep Cherokee north on Ponquogue Avenue on Aug. 12, 2009, when she struck Joseph. She told police she had reached for her phone just a moment before.

Southampton Town Police said Ms. Goss had a blood-alcohol level of .13 and was driving with her then 6-year-old son in the front seat. Her son was not injured.

Police also reported discovering a cup containing an alcoholic beverage by the front seat and a half-full bottle of vanilla vodka in the back seat.

[email protected]