As his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter cried in a Suffolk courtroom, a Bay Shore man was sentenced Tuesday to 2 to 6 years in prison for driving drunk into a car stopped at a traffic light, killing the driver.
Alejandro Padilla, 25, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident with injuries and driving while intoxicated. He admitted hitting the back of a car driven by Zenaida Falcon, 47, of Central Islip, sending her into a utility pole on Carleton Avenue on Dec. 22, 2012. He fled the scene, but was still intoxicated when police tracked him down.
"I'm truly sorry for what happened," he said before State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro imposed sentence. "I made a bad decision. I was frightened. I was scared. I didn't know what to do."
It happens all too often, said Falcon's sister, Jannet Ortiz.
"It's everywhere," she said. "It's just a shame."
She said that two weeks before she was killed, Falcon was the designated driver at a party.
"She wouldn't even have a sip," Ortiz said. "If we had more people like that, we'd have fewer situations like this."
Ambro assured the Falcon family that his sentence took "into account the genuine loss of a treasured life," but he said he also considered what he believed is Padilla's sincere remorse.
Ortiz said her family was "not quite satisfied with the sentence," but respected Ambro's decision.
"The past 13 months have been very difficult," she said. "We have hoped and prayed for justice. It's just been horrific. We wish this on no other family."
She stressed in court to both Ambro and Padilla that Falcon was a real person whose life was cut short for no good reason.
"She was more than just another DWI fatality," Ortiz said. "She was a mother. She was a daughter. She was an aunt and a sister."
Falcon worked hard as a production manager for more than 20 years and minded her own business. "She was a homebody," Ortiz said.
She took note of the Padilla family's tears and contrasted their situation with her family's.
"You're crying, yet he has breath in his lungs," she said, adding that some day they'd be able to hold him again.
Padilla's attorney, Frank Tinari of Central Islip, said his client's actions that night were out of character. He said Padilla sought alcohol counseling after the crash.