After violating her drunk driving and vehicular assault probation by drinking wine while out in Montauk, Charlotte DePersia was sentenced Tuesday to seven months and one week in Suffolk County Jail — but is expected to be released after four months due to state statute and time served.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of one and a quarter to four years in upstate prison for the East Hampton woman, but Judge William Condon decided to follow the recommendation of senior probation officer Michael Bissonette.
“I feel it is a very justified sentence,” Bissonette told the court in Riverside on Tuesday.
DePersia, herself, addressed the judge, saying she apologizes for her actions. “I have been working very hard and I will continue,” she told Condon. “I will not be here to apologize to you again.”
Condon told DePersia that he does not take the matter lightly and noted that just a few days earlier he sentenced a driver who killed three people while on alcohol and pills to nine years in prison. “That could have been you,” he said.
In November 2010 in Bridgehampton, DePersia carrying four people, including a pregnant woman, injuring two women. and the recommendation of District Attorney Thomas Spota, Condon .
After being arraigned on April 10 for her probation violation, for 37 days. She was released when her soon-to-ex husband
Assistant District Attorney Kate Wagner pointed out to the court on Tuesday that the 2010 crash was DePersia’s third DWI. After her first, she pleaded down the charge to a violation, Wagner said. After she second arrest, when she left the Applebee’s in Patchogue with a 0.19 blood alcohol content and was charged with aggravated DWI, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years of probation — a probation she was still under during the crash, Wagner said.
During her first probation, DePersia showed no regard, pretending not to be home when a probation officer showed up while she was drunk, and even driving herself to an outpatient treatment facility while drunk, Wagner said. "She constantly made travel plans for out of state and even out of the country."
Wagner reminded Condon that at DePersia’s original sentencing he told her that she would have “no margin of error” while on probation, and one failed drug or alcohol test would get her sent to prison — “not local time, state jail time, immediately.”
DePersia admitted to taking a cab March 10 to Montauk, where she drank wine, giving a reading of 0.039 on an alcohol monitoring ankle device, which Assistant District Attorney Kate Wagner said is consistent with consuming two glasses of wine.
Wagner told Condon he should at least give DePersia one to three years in prison on the probation violation, as he previously offered her.
DePersia rejected that offer and decided to take the case to a hearing, but she ultimately switched attorneys and pleaded guilty in exchange for a six-month sentence.
But defense attorney William Petrillo said that sentence is excessive and Wagner neglected to mention reports from the Phoenix House, where DePersia was under outpatient treatment five days a week for 16 months and the staff said she was “making strides.”
Petrillo said DePersia has been through personal and physical hardship and it is remarkable that she had the wherewithal to stop after a glass and a half of white wine rather than go on a bender, as many alcoholics in recovery do during a relapse.
Condon said that the assertion that DePersia's sentence must be upstate is, “in my opinion, facile and, in fact, ignorant.”
If he sent DePersia upstate, he said, Suffolk County would lose its supervision of her. “Here you’re going to be under control of probation and, ultimately, me.”
The sentence also includes five years of probation under “enhanced conditions,” including six months wearing an alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet.
At the conclusion of the sentencing, DePersia was handcuffed and led out by court officers.
Outside of court, Petrillo said that DePersia accepts responsibility and she expected jail time. “She has done absolutely everything that has been asked of her by the probation department,” he said.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim advocate Al Ekberg, who attended Tuesday’s session, was disappointed. “It was a travesty of justice,” he said immediately following the sentencing. He said it is a shame that Condon failed to send the message that drinking and driving is intolerable.
Strong sentences are the best deterrent to drunk driving, Ekberg said, adding, “Four months is not a strong sentence after three DWIs.”