FORT EDWARD -- The Hoosick Falls man who police said was driving drunk when he crashed his family sport utility vehicle last year and killed his wife was sentenced Friday to state prison after his lawyer read a letter of apology from him.
Courtney “Corey” Kessler did not speak during the proceeding before Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan, which ended with McKeighan imposing a 1-1/3- to 4-year state prison term. Kessler pleaded guilty last month to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, in the Jan. 22, 2012, crash on Route 22 in White Creek that killed Robin Kessler.
Kessler’s lawyer, Kurt Mausert, read a statement on his behalf in which he apologized and said he planned to do all he could to help those who have been affected after he is released from prison.
“Every day, I wrestle with my grief and feelings of remorse about this accident,” Mausert read. “I have not yet forgiven myself, nor do I know if I will ever be able to forgive myself.”
Kessler’s comments came after he heard a victim’s advocate read a statement from his wife’s family, a number of whom were in the courtroom for Friday’s proceeding and wept during parts of it.
The statement, written by Crystal Pierce, Mrs. Kessler’s mother, talked of “an emotional roller-coaster full of tears and anxiety” and pointed out that three young children lost their mother.
“These three children will have to grow up with very few if any memories of their mom since they were all too young to have established them,” she wrote.
Mrs. Kessler was particularly beloved by her younger sister, who considered her her best friend, Pierce wrote.
“Robin was such a beautiful vibrant woman who was full of energy,” Pierce wrote.
Mr. Kessler was charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, among a host of weightier charges in connection with the crash. The SUV he was driving crossed into the oncoming lane and hit a trailer being towed by a pickup.
The Kesslers had been at a gathering in Greenwich, where both had been drinking that afternoon.
Mausert said the defense review of the evidence found that the blood sample was improperly preserved at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and that Mr. Kessler was not intoxicated at the time of the crash. The driving while intoxicated charge that was filed was dropped as part of the plea deal.
Mausert said the crash occurred when Kessler took his eyes off the road to attend to his wife, who was in the seat next to him and moaned.
“This was not a DWI case,” he said. “We had multiple witnesses who said he was fine and he only had three or four beers the whole day.”
Kessler, 36, pleaded guilty to take responsibility for the accident and avoid the possibility of a 5- to 15-year prison sentence for the weightier second-degree manslaughter count, which was dismissed as part of the plea deal.
He will have to serve 16 months in prison before becoming eligible for parole.