FORT EDWARD -- A Vermont woman who was drunk when she caused a fatal crash in Hebron last summer was sentenced Friday to a year in Washington County Jail during an emotional hearing in Washington County Court.
The 1-year jail term was the maximum Cassie E. Earley could have received for convictions for aggravated driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and failure to keep right for causing the July 29 crash that killed Vincent J. Muro Sr., 83, of West Rutland, Vt. The crash also injured a passenger in Muro’s vehicle.
Despite the jury finding Earley was drunk, had a blood alcohol content more than double the threshold for intoxication and veered out of her lane on Route 22, she was acquitted of felony counts of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
That left Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan with sentencing options that included a maximum of 1 year in county jail, 3 years of probation and fines.
The judge heard an emotional apology from Earley, as well as a statement from Muro’s daughter, Angela Lundrigan, who told how her Korean War veteran father still worked to pay his taxes despite his age. He suffered broken ribs, a spinal injury and other internal injuries.
“He died a violent death,” she said. “He did not die immediately.”
Earley, 29, of Arlington, Vt., read a prepared statement and turned to Muro’s family in the court gallery and apologized, saying she was “full of regret and remorse.”
“I hope someday you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” she said.
She said she hasn’t drank or used drugs since the crash and is attending 12-step program meetings two or three times a week.
“I have chosen to take this as the biggest life lesson I could receive,” she said.
Earley’s lawyer, Kevin O’Brien, asked for a sentence that reflected his client’s status as a first-time DWI offender. He asked for a fine, probation and community service, saying the jury “did not determine she was criminally responsible for this death.”
McKeighan disagreed and took issue with Earley’s statement of remorse. He said she didn’t call for help from the crash scene, didn’t ask how the victims were and didn’t show remorse.
He also took issue with how “you celebrated like it was the end of a football game” when the jury found her not guilty of the felony charges.
“You were found guilty of causing that accident,” the judge said.
McKeighan also directed she spend 3 years on probation after being released from jail and have an ignition interlock device on her vehicle during that period. He also imposed $3,100 in fines and surcharges.
Earley will have to serve at least 8 months before becoming eligible for release.
She had a blood alcohol content of 0.18 percent, more than double the 0.08 percent threshold for DWI, and admitted using cocaine during a party hours before the early morning collision.
O’Brien said after Friday’s sentencing he did not agree with the judge’s analysis and said the sentence will be appealed. He said he may seek to have his client released from jail on bail pending the appeal.