Sentence in fatal DWI upsets victim's family

Jeffrey Hirsch, 57, of Longshore Street in Bay Jeffrey Hirsch, 57, of Longshore Street in Bay Shore, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after a crash which left his wife in serious condition, Suffolk County police said. His wife later died. (Jan. 24, 2012) Photo Credit: SCPD

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A Bay Shore man whose wife was killed when he hit another car while driving drunk was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail and 5 years' probation.

Jeffrey Hirsch, 57, pleaded guilty in July to second-degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. He and his wife, Pauline, had just left the Black Forest Brew Haus in East Farmingdale the evening of Jan. 24 when he crashed on Wellwood Avenue. His blood-alcohol content was 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit.

Prosecutors, the victims in the other car and relatives of Pauline Hirsch all objected to the sentence imposed by Suffolk County Court Judge Martin Efman.

Just before the sentence was announced, Assistant District Attorney Jessica Spencer said Pauline Hirsch's family members "are extremely upset by the sentence due to be given to the defendant."

Ronald Govelli and LaDawn Durante, the people in the car Hirsch hit, did not come to court, but Spencer said both have had surgery for their injuries and have suffered financially and emotionally as a result.

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Jeffrey Hirsch, meanwhile, has expressed no remorse for the death of his wife or the harm he caused to Govelli and Durante, Spencer said. She recommended a sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

But defense attorney Susan Ambro of the Legal Aid Society said her client is remorseful, particularly about losing his wife of more than 32 years.

Hirsch did not speak in court.

Ambro noted that Pauline Hirsch was a dwarf and might have survived the crash if she'd been taller.

"She was a little person," Ambro said, explaining that the air bag crushed her throat instead of keeping her body in place.

Efman said he thought the sentence was appropriate, considering his wife knew his condition when she got into the car.

"He'll have to live with the loss of his wife for the rest of his life," he said.

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