The Mattituck nurse who was drunk and on prescription drugs when the car she was driving struck and killed a 15-year-old boy in Hampton Bays Thursday agreed in civil court to pay a monthly financial reminder of the pain she caused.
Sobbing on the stand in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, Caroline Goss apologized and accepted full responsibility for the Aug. 12, 2009, crash that killed Joseph Marino. She will pay the boy's mother $300 every month for 20 years -- a settlement detail Dorothy Marino had demanded to keep the memory of Goss' crime fresh.
"I want to tell you that I'm sorry," Goss, 37, said to Marino, bringing the grieving mother to tears in the front row of the courtroom. "Let it be known that I take responsibility for what happened . . . I knew I drank and got behind the wheel and endangered your son's life."
Marino said she demanded the payments as part of the $72,000 settlement because "Every time she writes that check for the next 20 years, she's going to remember she's writing it because she killed my son."
Goss had been charged criminally in the boy's death and in 2010 she pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child. She served about 3 months in jail. The maximum sentence normally would have been 2 to 7 years in prison.
Goss admitted in civil court Thursday to drinking at the beach and using Vicodin before her sport utility vehicle struck the Hampton Bays teen as he rode his bike on Ponquogue Avenue.
The single mother of two children had her 6-year-old son in her 2001 Jeep Cherokee and was answering her cellphone at the time of the crash, prosecutors have said. She also had a glass of vodka beside her and a half-consumed bottle of vanilla vodka in the backseat. Her blood-alcohol content was .13 percent. The legal limit is .08 percent, prosecutors said.
At the time, Suffolk prosecutors said the case would have been difficult to take to trial because evidence showed Joseph Marino swerved into traffic on his bicycle and there was no evidence Goss was speeding, weaving or driving on the shoulder.
Joseph's parents were outraged by the plea agreement and filed a lawsuit against Goss, demanding she take complete responsibility in civil court for the accident.
In civil court Thursday, Goss said: "I'm 100 percent responsible for causing the death of your son and I'm sorry."
The apology was what Marino truly wanted.
"It's what I needed to hear all along," she said outside the courtroom. "To have her finally admit the only reason he's not here is because she was drunk. . . . That's what this was all about. She had to say those words. She had to finally admit that it wasn't my son's fault. It was her fault."
On the stand, Goss asked Marino to forgive her. But the heartbroken mother said she couldn't.
"I don't believe there's any forgiveness with this," Marino, 53, said outside court. "My son is the ultimate victim."
Joseph's father, Phil Marino, 58, said he hoped Goss' statement would help his family to heal. "You can never forget, but hopefully we can move on," he said outside court.