BUFFALO, NY - A woman accused in a fatal hit and run has plead guilty to leaving the scene of a serious injury accident.
Prosecutors say Gabriele Ballowe struck and killed Barry Moss along Route 5 in the town of Evans in December 2013. She had been indicted on charges of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
Ballowe will be sentenced in December, just two days shy of the third anniversary of the accident which claimed Moss' life.
"It is never the wrong time to do the right thing," said acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty Jr.
In this case, according to Flaherty, the right thing was to allow Ballowe to admit to leaving the scene of a serious injury accident, a charge which carries a prison sentence of up to four years.
However, it also allows her to escape prosecution on a vehicular manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum of five to 15 years behind bars.
Moreover, according to Ballowe's attorney, the plea bargain comes with an understanding his client will spend no more than one year in jail.
"The proposal is now a maximum of serving 8 months," said Ballowe's lawyer Thomas Eoaunnu.
"This plea was offered, with the full support of the Moss family," said Flaherty, who noted Ballowe's plea will stand as a conviction to a felony. "Having her (Ballowe) stand up before the judge today and plead guilty, that's very important to everybody here," he said.
"It's been a long time coming," said Ashley Venters, Moss' daughter. "We just want to thank everybody involved from the bottom to the top of our hearts."
Had the case to trial, prosecutors were certain they could prove Ballowe hit Moss along Route 5 and left without stopping, as she admitted to doing on Monday.
However, two sources familiar with the case say gaining a conviction for Vehicular Manslaughter, would have been difficult, because it would have required prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ballowe was impaired at the time, and that the impairment caused her to hit Moss.
As well, the defense would have almost certainly raised the results of post mortem toxicology tests, which showed Moss was intoxicated at the time of the mishap, while riding or walking his bicycle down a foggy, dark road.
"Here was someone, whose BAC (indicated intoxication) in the roadway on a bike on a dark night, and an accident occurred," Euanno said. "It was a tragic accident...this was not my client's fault."
"This is a conviction which, a year ago, we weren't going to get, but we have it today," insisted Flaherty, who pursued the case which his predecessor as DA was worried could not be proven in court.
Frank Sedita, who left the office after being elected to a judgeship, had taken the unusual step of asking a grand jury which had indicted Ballowe, to take another vote. The grand jury then "no billed" the defendant.
"We were prepared and determined, thus we achieved this just resolution," Flaherty said.