Fairfielder Kristen Osterberg admitted to a Bridgeport Superior Court judge Friday that she probably got drunk and ran down a 78-year-old Trumbull man on Villa Avenue hours after walking out of court for a prior DUI because she had gotten leniency in the first case.
"Clearly, I should have learned my lesson the first time, but I considered myself very lucky," the 35-year-old said.
Her luck held out as Judge John Cronan sentenced her to 24 months in prison -- a year less than sought by the prosecutor and the victim's family.
"After two DWIs, almost killing my father, and then having a drink eight months later, the message apparently is leniency," Jill Alix said after the sentencing hearing.
Osterberg, a copy editor at a Norwalk publishing company, was arrested in Fairfield in February 2011 for drunken driving after she crashed into another car in the town center.
On March 30, 2011, she was ordered to undergo an alcohol education program, and was limited to driving between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Five hours later -- about 8 p.m. -- Osterberg was driving on Villa Avenue when she struck 79-year-old James "Jimmy" Scalo as he crossed the street. Police said the impact threw Scalo onto the hood of Osterberg's car, and then flung him nearly 40 feet away.
A Navy veteran who organized events for injured soldiers, Scalo spent several weeks in a coma as a result of brain damage and now has limited mobility.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Mary Card told the judge that Osterberg's car was filled with beer cans, some of them empty, and she was later found to have a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Eight months after her arrest, and after Osterberg had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Card said that Osterberg admitted recently having drinks with her family.
"She is alcohol-dependent and she cannot promise this court this will not happen again," the prosecutor said, urging the judge to impose a three-year prison term.
Scalo's lawyer, Robert Photos, told the judge he had been prepared to agree to a more lenient term for Osterberg until he found out she was drinking again a few months ago.
"I just don't get it," he said, raising his voice. "How someone almost kills someone and then has a cocktail in November 2012; that's not acceptable. It's an embarrassment to the whole system and she deserves to get the maximum."
Osterberg's lawyer, David Dworski, presented the judge with a scrapbook filled with photographs of the work his client has been doing as self-imposed community service. But Alix had her own photo of her father in better days.
"His head hit your windshield, his hair got caught on your windshield," she told Osterberg, her voice cracking with emotion. "He used to be a healthy man and he has lost all that."
On the conviction of second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, two counts of driving while intoxicated and driving while suspended, Cronin sentenced Osterberg to six years in prison, suspended after she serves two years and followed by three years probation.
He ordered her not to drive for one year and to do 200 hours of community service.