Despite emotional statements from her victims and a flood of letters asking for harsher punishment, Charlotte DePersia of East Hampton—a repeat DWI offender who pleaded guilty after injuring two people in a car accident in November 2010—will not serve any jail time.
Appearing before Judge William Conden at the Arthur M. Cromarty Courthouse in Riverhead for her sentencing on Tuesday, Ms. DePersia, 58, was sentenced to 840 hours of community service, which will be served in lieu of six months of jail time, as punishment for the felony DWI charge connected with the crash.
She was also sentenced to five years of probation and must wear a mandated ankle device called a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, at all times, which monitors her every half hour to ensure that she has not consumed any alcohol. Additionally, she must follow strict alcohol and narcotics provisions and have interlock devices installed on all of her vehicles. She will also pay approximately $1,300 in fines and had her driver’s license revoked for a year.
Judge Conden warned Ms. DePersia that if she slips up in any way, she will be immediately sent to an upstate prison, where she will begin serving a term of 15 to 48 months—a sentence originally requested by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office for the DWI charge.
Mr. Spota was not happy about the sentencing, he said. “The time has come when she should be spending some time behind bars,” Mr. Spota said. “She’s had her chance and yet she made the decision to drink and drive.”
She was told by the judge that she would not be afforded any further breaks. “You have no margin for error,” Judge Conden warned. “One dirty urine and you’re going upstate.”
Prior to being sentenced, Ms. DePersia, who has been undergoing counseling for a year, apologized tearfully to her victims.
“I am so horrified with myself,” she said, adding that she was taking complete responsibility for her actions. “I am deeply ashamed and I am so very sorry. I promise I will never do it again.”
Ms. DePersia was arrested on November 27, 2010, after she crashed her Land Rover into another car on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton that was carrying four passengers: Lindsay Soyka and Matthew Gluck, who split their time between East Quogue and New York City, and their friends Karyn and Mark Sholack. Ms. Sholack was pregnant at the time and suffered a broken rib, while Ms. Soyka walked away with a broken nose. Their husbands were not injured.
In an interview before the sentencing, Ms. Soyka said she was scarred emotionally by the accident. “I couldn’t even pick up my son, who was a year old at the time,” she said.
Today, driving is still traumatic, Ms. Soyka added. “I will never feel comfortable on the road again,” she said.
Ms. Soyka, who had one surgery to correct her nose so far, needs a second surgery but cannot undertake the procedure because she is pregnant with her second child.
“There is no excuse for drunk driving,” she said. “It shows pure disrespect and disregard for the lives of others.”
At the time of the crash, Ms. DePersia was on probation for a 2009 DWI.
In her statement, she said stress and depression sparked by an impending divorce led to poor choices, but said that was no excuse. Her voice trembling and toying with her hair, she faced her victims. “I am fully responsible for what happened that night,” she said. “I hope I can articulate my deep apology for the harm I caused.”
Ms. DePersia later pleaded guilty to all of the charges in the indictment from the 2010 accident, including felony DWI, vehicular assault, crossing the median and possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, according to authorities. A Starbucks cup filled with red wine was found in the SUV.
All four victims attended Tuesday’s sentencing, and Ms. Sholack brought her baby—7-month-old Henry—to the courtroom. Prior to the sentencing, all victims read statements describing the pain and anguish they have experienced due to the accident.
Ms. Sholack described the agony she suffered, with her injuries making it difficult to breathe after the accident, and said probation or rehab is not sufficient punishment for Ms. DePersia. “The real punishment is what I suffered that night, lying on side of the road in the dark on a cold November night, praying my baby would be OK.”
The judge said that the case was a difficult one to weigh, and that he had received a flood of letters greater than any he had ever gotten before from both friends and family of the victims, as well as those who testified to Ms. DePersia’s efforts in counseling. “Drunk driving is a plague on our society,” he said.
Ms. DePersia is due back in court on December 21 to face charges that she violated her probation from the first DWI conviction by driving while intoxicated on November 27, 2010.
The district attorney's office will be recommending one year in the Suffolk County Jail, according to Robert Clifford, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.