RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Victims were in tears inside a packed Suffolk County courtroom Tuesday, after a drugged driver who struck three teenagers back in 2011 worked out a controversial plea deal.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Cathleen Wild was arrested the day after the Aug. 7, 2011 crash in Deer Park. She had hypodermic needles hidden in her underwear, and was driving with a suspended license.
But despite admission of DUI, possessing heroin and hypodermic needles, driving with a suspended license, and assaulting the three teens with her car, Wild was sentenced Tuesday to one year already served in jail, and five years’ probation.
Wild worked out the controversial plea deal with the court before her sentencing. After getting drug rehab in jail, she pledged to turn her life around.
“I am very sorry, and that’s all I’d like to say,” Wild said.
Doctors told the victims – all 16-year-old students from Deer Park High School – that they are lucky to have survived.
Victim Paulino “P.J.” Harrington was in the worst shape following the crash. He was in a coma for days and suffered brain swelling, a shattered pelvis, and lacerated kidneys.
Cell phone photos showed a dented sport-utility vehicle that struck the victims – Harrington and his friends Thomas Pirrone and Gabrielle Ferraro – with such force that they were sent right out of their shoes.
The victims were on a scavenger hunt at the time.
Upon Wild’s arrest, police found six empty packets of heroin, and the two hypodermic needles in her underwear.
She reportedly told police the teens jumped into the roadway, but authorities later charged her with driving while ability impaired by drugs.
Emotional parents of the victims pointed to the scourge of suburban drugs, and called the Wild case a wake-up call.
“Stay close to your kids, support them, and don’t enable them if your child is on heroin,” said Robert Pirrone, Thomas Pirrone’s father.
The victims, now all college-bound, said they have learned valuable lessons
“It taught me to live life with a smile on your face, because you never know when it can all be over,” Thomas Pirrone said.
“I’m grateful for every day I have,” Ferraro added.
“When people make mistakes, learn from your lessons,” Harrington added.
Still, Harrington’s parents, who almost lost their son, were furious at the lenient sentence. They said they hope Albany is listening.
“For me, lawmakers need to toughen this up,” said Paul Harrington. “She does everything wrong and gets off on a weak sentence.”
As part of the plea deal, Wild will be subject to random drug and alcohol testing, as well as the loss of her driver’s license.
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