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Garden City family, in court, confronts ex-neighbor who drove drunk, ran down father

Tara Guinnane pleaded guilty earlier this year to

Tara Guinnane pleaded guilty earlier this year to a 2018 drunken driving crash that left neighbor Brian Gormley with a traumatic brain injury. Credit: NCDA

Members of a Garden City family confronted a former neighbor and friend in court Wednesday, describing how she changed their lives by running down a father of three in a drunken-driving crash.

Tara Guinnane, 49, pleaded guilty earlier this year to aggravated vehicular assault, assault and aggravated drunken driving after causing a February 2018 crash that left neighbor Brian Gormley with a traumatic brain injury.

"It was a tragedy waiting to happen," the victim's wife, Mary Ellen Gormley, 52, said before a judge sentenced Guinnane to up to six years in prison.

The Wilson Street resident spoke in Nassau County Court of how she'd offered to help Guinnane a few years ago when the woman admitted to her that she had a drinking problem, and how neighbors had reported Guinnane's erratic driving to local police.

"We have to stop letting her live without consequences," the victim's wife added, recalling how she watched her husband fighting for his life after the crash and how Guinnane at first denied involvement.

Prosecutors said Guinnane was behind the wheel of a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee when she hit Brian Gormley, now 52,  at about 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2018, as he walked home from the train station after work.

Two hours later, Guinnane's blood-alcohol concentration was more than twice the legal limit, according to the Nassau district attorney's office.

Brian Gormley's brain shifted in his skull from the impact of the crash, according to his wife. The victim's family and prosecutors said he needed months of cognitive and physical therapy to recover.

He returned to work on Wall Street in October, but is no longer able to serve as a foreign currency broker and will lose out on earnings after building a successful career, his wife told the judge.

Two of the victim's children also addressed acting state Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz, with son Timothy, 20, recalling how he tried to clean his father's blood off the pavement after the crash, and daughter Caitlin, 17, speaking of her father's constant headaches and fatigue.

"I lost a piece of my dad that I will never get back," she said.

Before hearing her sentence, Guinnane stood and faced the Gormley family to offer an apology, her voice and body shaking.

Guinnane said she was ashamed of her actions and would do her best to help others "to make sure something like this never happens again to anybody."

"I'll never be able to apologize enough … I can't ask for you ever to forgive me or not to hate me," she added.

Her attorney, James Pascarella, said later that the mother of two has been sober since the crash, and called the case "a terrible tragedy for all sides."

Under the judge's sentence, Guinnane won't be eligible for parole for three years, prosecutors said.

Brian Gormley embraced his family outside the courtroom later, tears rolling down his face as he described living through the ordeal.

He said the victims of drunken driving are "not just the person that gets hit by the car," but "it's the family, it's the community, it's the people that you love."

He said Guinnane deserved her punishment, saying he now had "a life sentence of pain" while his former neighbor would at some point finish her time behind bars.

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