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Amy Locane spared longer prison sentence because she has sick daughter

11:50 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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(MY CENTRAL JERSEY) -- Helene Seeman's two sons lost their mother on June 27, 2010, in a car crash caused by a speeding, drunken driver.

Amy Locane-Bovenizer's daughters on Thursday saved their mother from a longer prison sentence for her conviction in Seeman's death more than two years ago.

Locane-Bovenizer, 41, a former TV and film actress who married and became a stay-at-home mother in Hopewell, was sentenced to just three years - the minimum allowed by law - in state prison by presiding Superior Court Judge Robert Reed, even though the prosecution had requested a sentence of up to nine years.

She will serve fewer than 31 months before she is eligible for parole, followed by three years of post-release supervision and a driver's license suspension of more than five years. The 81 days she has spent in Somerset County Jail since her conviction in November will be counted as part of her sentence.

Locane-Bovenizer also may be eligible for a halfway house in six months.

"I'm shocked. No one saw this coming," Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Murphy said afterward. "The county prosecutor is contemplating an appeal."

Locane-Bovenizer also must pay more than $12,900 in fines, including four motor-vehicle violations for driving while intoxicated in Montgomery and Princeton on the night of the accident.

The sentencing in the packed Somerville courtroom was the latest emotional chapter in a two-year legal saga that brought no closure to the families torn apart by the 2010 crash.

The case drew public attention in part because Locane-Bovenizer starred in the original 1992 season of the TV drama "Melrose Place" and played opposite Johnny Depp in the movie "Cry-Baby."

The Locane-Bovenizer family still faces a federal lawsuit filed by the Seemans.

Before making the unusual move of punishing a second-degree offense with a third-degree sentence, Reed said Locane-Bovenizer's children - particularly her 4-year-old daughter, Avery, who suffers from Crohn's disease and requires a feeding tube in her nose - should be considered a mitigating factor.

Also taken into account was Locane-Bovenizer's prior record, with only a 2001 arrest for simple possession of marijuana.

"With all due respect, I cannot, considering of all the factors that stand here, treat innocent children as collateral damage," Reed said, addressing the Seeman family and their friends.

"I have no sympathy for an adult who chooses to drink and drive," Reed said, turning to Locane-Bovenizer. "The harm caused to your daughters is caused by you. The dilemma this court faces is whether the crime of the mother shall be visited upon the children."

Locane-Bovenizer initially had been facing five to 10 years for vehicular homicide, a second-degree crime, and another three to five years for third-degree assault by auto for the injuries suffered by Seeman's husband, Fred. Several of his ribs were broken.

Locane-Bovenizer was convicted by a Somerset County jury, which acquitted the actress of aggravated manslaughter, for which she could have faced 30 years in prison.

Fred Seeman and his son, Ford, shouted at the judge and stormed out of the courtroom.

"Having a sick child doesn't give you a pass to kill my wife!" Fred Seeman said. "What were you thinking of, judge? You don't understand it!"

Before the sentencing, Locane addressed the Seeman family for the first time since the trial began. She had declined to testify.

"I made a terrible choice to get behind the wheel. I put the general public, Helene, you and myself at risk," she read from a prepared statement that lasted nearly four minutes. "Please know that the reality that I did cause you such loss haunts me every day and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.

"I pledge to you that I will spend the rest of my life making sure that people understand the tragic effects of drinking and driving so that Helene Seeman will not have died in vain."

Seeman's wife, his high-school sweetheart and wife of 38 years, was killed almost instantly when Locane-Bovenizer rammed her SUV into the passenger side of the Seemans' Mercury Milan, just as the family was pulling into the driveway of their seasonal Montgomery home.

Locane-Bovenizer was traveling up to 18 mph above the posted 35 mph speed limit on the winding, residential Cherry Hill Road. Her blood-alcohol level later was recorded at nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

She was coming from a family friend's barbecue, where she had been drinking wine. Earlier in the evening, she drank beer and wine at a party.

The defense never denied Locane-Bovenizer was drunk, but did try to shift some blame onto a woman who tailed Locane-Bovenizer for nearly 4 miles after being rear-ended by her. The defense also made much of the fact that Fred Seeman made a left turn into his driveway, crossing Locane-Bovenizer's lane when she had the right of way.

Helene Seeman's 86-year-old mother addressed the court and delivered an abridged but proud biography of her late daughter's life. Helene Seeman worked for Prudential, purchasing art for the company's properties, before starting her own art business. She survived the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but she and her family were shut out of their Battery Park City home for months.

"She never complained," Marcia Zucker said about her daughter, bringing Locane-Bovenizer's mother, Helen, to tears. "My only regret is that I was not there that weekend. Had I been, I would have been in the passenger seat. Why should I be here and she not be here?"

"I feel that people have forgotten who the victims truly are," Ford said in his statement. "The defense in this case blamed the tragic death of my mother on my father and other good Samaritans who were trying to do the right thing by getting a drunken maniac off the road. My mother was murdered and the woman who did it tried to blame it on my dad."

After the sentencing, a crying Helen Locane said her daughter was "a good girl" and expressed remorse for the Seemans.

"I'm glad that the girls will have their mother back sooner," she added.

Sergio Bichao

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