Handcuffed and speaking in halting sentences to two men forced to sit Monday morning in state Superior Court in Norwalk because of injuries they’d sustained in a car crash she caused nearly two years ago, a New Canaan woman in court custody apologized and said she never meant to hurt anyone.
During her sentencing on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge that followed the October 2014 crash on Silvermine Road and a subsequent, separate drunk driving charge at Saxe Middle School pickup, Carol Sung, 52, told Michael Bivona and Darryl Shaw that she was “so sorry for everything.”
“I pray for you every day,” Sung, wearing a purple blouse, back pants and sneakers, told the men.
She added: “I do not want you to think that you are not on my mind.”
Under a plea deal worked out between her attorney, John Robert Gulash of Bridgeport-based Gulash & Associates, and the office of assistant state’s attorney Nadia Prinz, Sung pleaded no contest and was fined the maximum $300 for the reckless driving charge and an additional $500 plus court costs and sentenced to six months, suspended after 48 hours. The formal ‘nolo contendere’ plea means that Sung accepts a conviction though she does not admit guilt.
Judge Alex Hernandez said Sung also would have to make any “verifiable restitution” following the accident she caused, undergo substance abuse counseling, attend four MADD victim impact panels over the two-year period and may need to use an interlock safety device with her car, pending a DMV decision.
Gulash called the sentencing “the result of very extensive discussions” with prosecutors, and said it represents a fair mix of “punishment, treatment and safeguards” for Sung in the future.
Sung still faces a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Bivona, a Stamford resident who suffered near-fatal injuries after the head-on crash, and that suit now also includes claims from Shaw, whom Sung had rear-ended while speeding down Silvermine Road just after 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2014, causing the crash. A fourth motorist, a woman driving eastbound behind Bivona when the crash occurred just beyond Little Brook Road, was not seriously hurt.Police on scene had determined that Sung was intoxicated and the civil suit, filed by attorney John M. Parese of New Haven-based Buckley & Wynne, makes the same claim. (Hospital officials apparently failed to test Sung’s blood for drugs, and the state’s attorney’s office declined to bring the more serious charge, according to an arrest warrant application and police affidavits obtained by NewCanaanite.com.)
Bivona, a teenager at the time of the crash, likely would have died if not for New Canaan’s emergency responders, officials have said. His traumatic injuries are extensive and lasting.
During an emotional statement read on his behalf by Parese, Bivona said that his “life changed forever” that day.
“Carol Sung made a decision to drive that day with reckless disregard for the safety of everyone on the road,” the statement said. “More specifically, and in accordance with the Event Data Recorder information secured by the police, she pressed her accelerator pedal 99 percent, came to a speed of 64 mph in a 30 mph zone, and never applied her brakes once, not even when she crashed into another vehicle or caused her vehicle to go airborne. At the scene Ms. Sung admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the crash, failed all field sobriety tests and claimed to be taking medications for alcohol cravings. As you know, she was later arrested for DUI while attempting to pick up her child at school while intoxicated. In a word: Ms. Sung is a danger to society. We rely on the legal system to protect us from people like this.”
Bivona in his statement listed the extensive injuries including post-traumatic stress, and said that nearly two years later, “I continue to have severe pain in numerous parts of my body.”
“Everyday activities such as walking up and down stairs, sitting, standing and walking for long periods of time cause me great pain,” he said. “I am no longer able to participate in physical activities such as running and playing sports. I cannot do any physical labor without pain and if I attempt to exert myself in any way, I am left feeling pain and sore the following day. I can no longer drive standard transmission vehicles, which was once a passion of mine. The loss of my teeth makes it difficult for me to eat and I have become self-conscious about my smile. I struggle with depression on a daily basis from both the physical and mental toll this accident has taken on me and the effect it has had on my life.”
Bivona said in the statement that he strongly objects to Sung’s plea deal “as it does not come close to an adequate punishment commensurate with Ms. Sung’s conduct or the injuries she caused, it does not serve as a deterrent and it sends a terrible message to the community: That is, if you have money, you can get away with anything.”
Gulash responded that Sung did not receive any special treatment because of money.
Hernandez said: “There is no doubt about this was a very, very serious accident, but based on my careful review of the arrest report and accident report, I do not believe the state would have been able to prove reckless driving.”
During an interview after the sentencing, Bivona and Parese declined to comment beyond the formal statement read in court.