A juror from the Dr. James G. Corasanti fatal hit-and-run and DWI trial will head to jail again, this time for a second alcohol-related driving offense.
Town Justice Lynn W. Keane on Monday sentenced John F. Jankowiak Jr., 38, of South Buffalo, to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation for driving while drunk last year in Orchard Park.
Jankowiak pleaded guilty in November to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, admitting that he drove while drunk Oct. 19 after leaving a Hamburg bar.
The Orchard Park incident was the second time Jankowiak was charged with drunken driving following the Corasanti trial in 2012.
Attorney Michael Bly Santa-Maria, who represented Jankowiak, called the sentence harsh.
He said it was the first time one of his clients received jail time in a misdemeanor DWI case.
“I’ve never seen a sentence this harsh,” he said. “There was no accident, and nobody was hurt.”
He said Jankowiak already served a 15-day jail sentence, the maximum, after being convicted in Buffalo City Court last year for driving while ability impaired and refusing to take a breath test, both violations.
In that case, he was arrested April 10 after police said he struck a utility pole and drove off at 2:15 a.m.
At the City Court trial Oct. 18, Judge Diane Y. Wray acquitted Jankowiak of misdemeanor DWI but convicted him of two violations. The judge initially gave him a conditional discharge and suspended his driver’s license for 90 days, but after his Orchard Park arrest, she sentenced him to 15 days in jail and fined him $650.
Jankowiak was arrested at 4 a.m. Oct. 19, just hours after his acquittal on the DWI charge in Buffalo, after an Orchard Park police officer noticed his car weave and he failed to signal on the Route 219 entrance ramp at Milestrip Road.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Jankowiak apparently had been celebrating the City Court verdict before the police officer stopped his car.
At Monday’s sentencing, the Orchard Park judge said she would have normally imposed a probation sentence in a misdemeanor DWI case. But she cited the circumstances in this case, noting that Jankowiak’s actions followed the City Court verdict.
“You went out that night and took one step, deciding to drink, then you took another step, taking the keys and getting behind the wheel,” Keane said.
She criticized his disregard for his own life and those of his passenger and other motorists that night. She mentioned the Buffalo incident in which he drove into a utility pole and suffered a concussion.
Before sentencing, Jankowiak’s attorney urged the judge to place Jankowiak on probation. The Probation Department recommended probation but no jail time in its presentencing report.
Santa-Maria said his client already has been punished by the 15-day jail sentence in the City Court case and the media coverage of his arrests.
He said Jankowiak has joint custody of his 15-year-old daughter “who knows what’s going on” as a result of the news reports. He said more jail time would make it difficult for him to maintain a relationship with his daughter.
He also said jail time would interfere with Jankowiak’s job as a carpet layer for his brother’s business. He asked that any jail sentence be limited to weekends so Jankowiak can keep working.
Santa-Maria told the judge that Jankowiak has stopped drinking and realizes he made a big mistake and that his actions have had serious effects on his daughter and his brother’s business.
Jankowiak apologized to the court.
Keane said she considered a 60-day jail term but instead sentenced Jankowiak to 30 days in the Erie County Correctional Facility and three years’ probation. The maximum possible sentence was a year in jail.
The judge also fined him $500, revoked his driver’s license, ordered him to avoid alcohol and drugs, and directed him to wear an alcohol-monitoring device.
“Focus on your daughter’s life, not alcohol,” Keane told him.
Sedita called the 30-day jail term “a very fair sentence, taking into account all the factors in the case.”
During his Buffalo arrest, Jankowiak told police he was a Corasanti juror and did not trust police. He refused to take a breath test.
He did not mention the Corasanti trial when Orchard Park police pulled him over. He again refused to take a breath test. He mentioned he had been on trial in Buffalo for DWI and had been convicted of a lesser charge, according to Orchard Park police.
Jurors acquitted Corasanti in 2012 of felony manslaughter, leaving the scene and evidence tampering but convicted him of misdemeanor DWI. Corasanti was sentenced to a year behind bars and served eight months.
Corasanti had faced charges that he was drunk, speeding, driving partly on the shoulder and texting when his car fatally struck Alexandria “Alix” Rice, 18, on July 8, 2011, on Heim Road in Amherst. He did not stop at the scene and was later arrested.