The recent release of Dr. James G. Corasanti after a mere 239 days in jail for the drunken-driving crash that killed an Amherst teenager is a reminder that the Assembly still refuses to close a legal loophole exposed by the case.
The case outraged many in the Western New York community. Corasanti, who was driving drunk and had been texting, struck Alexandria Rice, 18, as she skateboarded home late at night from her job at a pizza shop. She was killed instantly. That was July 8, 2011.
The controversial trial resulted in Corasanti being acquitted of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting it. His lawyers successfully argued that Corasanti did not know he had hit someone, despite the heavy damage to his luxury sedan.
What little time he did serve was because the jury convicted him of DWI, while concluding that his drunkenness did not directly cause her death. The Getzville doctor was released last week from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden after serving two-thirds of his one-year jail sentence.
Emotions ran high on both sides of the case. But what shouldn’t be in question is the need to close the loophole Corasanti and others have used.
Alix’s Law is sponsored by State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblyman Dennis R. Gabryszak, D- Cheektowaga. It would require any driver coming in contact with any object to investigate and report property damage or contact with a person.
The legislation passed the Senate last year but failed in the Assembly. This year, it again passed the Senate but has yet to come to a vote in the Assembly.
Another unrelated bill still hangs in the Assembly balance. Jay J.’s Law, named for Jay J. Bolvin, a 2-year-old who was beaten badly by his father, would significantly increase the penalty for repeat child abusers.
Jay J.’s Law is sponsored by Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and in the Assembly by Gabryszak.
This piece of legislation would nearly double the maximum sentence allowed for a child abuser’s second offense. The current maximum of four years in prison would become seven years.
The abuse little Jay J. suffered has sentenced him to a lifetime of developmental difficulties. Doctors have told his family that Jay J. suffered 11 separate fractures in his body from the beatings by his father in the 2011 assault. And he has been diagnosed with a serious seizure disorder called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The father who beat him, Jeremy Bolvin of North Tonawanda, received only 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, despite the fact that he previously had been convicted of third-degree assault for breaking the arm of another of his sons in 2006, when that child was 6 months old.
The proposed law would also expand the window for previous convictions to the prior 10 years, instead of the three now in effect. It also would stiffen penalties for third-time offenders to up to 25 years in prison, and would allow some severe cases to be prosecuted as first-degree assaults, which also could result in prison terms of up to 25 years.
Both bills would go a long way toward tightening laws that have demonstrable weaknesses. The State Senate has seen the need for these two laws. The Assembly should join in the effort.