BUFFALO - A suburban Buffalo doctor was sentenced Thursday to the maximum one year in jail for being drunk behind the wheel when he struck and killed an 18-year-old skateboarder and continued on home without stopping.
A jury in May convicted Dr. James Corasanti, 57, of misdemeanor drunken driving but acquitted him of several felony counts that could have sent him to prison for up to 23 years for the July 2011 death of Alexandria Rice. It was Corasanti's second alcohol-related conviction.
Still stinging from the lesser verdict, the victim's parents asked Erie County Court Judge Sheila DiTullio to send the "coward" responsible for their daughter's death to prison for as long as possible.
"Nothing will bring her back and nothing will ease my pain," Rice's mother, Tammy Schueler, clutching tissues and fighting tears, told the judge as Corasanti sat to the right of the podium, staring ahead.
Schueler described how Amherst police officers woke her on July 9 to tell her that her daughter had been killed by a hit-and-run driver. The officers drove her to the hospital, she said, "so I could see my beautiful girl."
"She, however, did not look so beautiful that night," the mother said. "This was how I got to say goodbye to my only child."
During the monthlong trial, prosecutors argued that Corasanti was drunk, texting and speeding in his 2010 BMW when he struck Rice on his way home from a country club outing, sending her 167 feet through the air. Rice had been skateboarding home from her job at a pizzeria about 11:20 p.m.
Corasanti testified that he didn't know he'd hit a person until he got home and began investigating the damage to his car. He did not speak at his sentencing because a lawsuit in the case is pending, his attorney, Joel Daniels, said.
"Dr. Corasanti is remorseful and he does extend his sympathies to ... all the members of the Rice family," said Daniels. He asked the judge for a sentence of community service reading aloud from several letters of support from Corasanti's patients.
"You drank a lot of booze that evening," DiTullio told Corasanti, "and then you chose to walk to your car and drive. ... Driving while drunk is clearly not a victimless crime."
In sending him to jail, DiTullio cited Corasanti's 1995 guilty plea to driving while ability impaired after being arrested for drunken driving, a conviction the jury wasn't allowed to hear about at the recent trial.
Rice's father, Richard Rice, talked about the previous conviction, saying the only thing Corasanti had learned from it was to call his attorney before police.
"I've met a lot of people the past 13 months, since this occurred" who know Corasanti, Rice said. "They all seem to use the same two words to describe him. Both start with 'A.' The first one's 'arrogant,' that's all I'm going to say."