A Centereach man broke down in sobs Wednesday as he apologized in court to the family of the East Setauket woman he killed two years ago while driving drunk.
The emotional scene unfolded as James O'Donnell, 49, was sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in July to second-degree vehicular homicide and other charges related to the death of Kristen Iacono, 26.
O'Donnell admitted drinking four or five beers on May 23, 2012, before he drove his sedan through a red light at Holbrook Road and the Long Island Expressway's north service road in Holbrook, ramming Iacono's car. His blood-alcohol level after the midnight crash was 0.12 percent, authorities said.
Iacono's older sister, Renee Godberson of Selden, told Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. in Riverhead the victim was a happy and smart single mother, raising a 7-year-old boy. Iacono's son, Michael, flashed a smile and pointed himself out to the judge.
The smile faded as Godberson, 40, turned to O'Donnell, reminding him that she knew him through her brother-in-law.
"You never stopped drinking," she said. "You never stopped doing drugs. You thought only of yourself."
Godberson described the agony of watching her sister die in a hospital bed the night of the crash.
"We donated her heart and kidneys because they were the only things that weren't destroyed," Godberson said, as O'Donnell and members of her family cried. She said she would never forgive him, because he had the choice that night to not drink and drive.
He agreed with her assessment of him.
"My actions were selfish and stupid," he said, before turning away in tears. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Later, Godberson said she was sure O'Donnell felt remorse, but she doubted he's capable of changing his behavior when he gets out of prison. She said she would work to stiffen penalties for vehicular homicide, noting that people can face more prison time for robbing a store or dealing cocaine than for killing someone while driving drunk.
Before imposing the sentence, Toomey said he had little to add to what Godberson and O'Donnell said.
"It's just an absolute tragedy that affected many lives," the judge said.