FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to five years in prison in the death of a pedestrian that prosecutors said occurred as the driver was texting — an accusation the defendant denied on the stand.
Alexandra Mansonet, 51, of Keansburg, was convicted of vehicular homicide last fall in the September 2016 death of 39-year-old Yuwen Wang. Defense attorney Raymond Brown indicated that Mansonet plans to appeal, but a judge Friday denied a request to allow her to remain free pending that appeal.
Monmouth County prosecutors said Mansonet rear-ended another car that struck the victim as she was crossing a street in Hazlet. Wang, who was on a break from her job at the nearby International Flavors and Fragrances plant, died five days later.
Mansonet apologized Friday to Wang’s family, the Asbury Park Press reported.
“She didn’t deserve to die so early, and I stand here knowing that there’s absolutely nothing that I can do that can change that," she said. “My hope is that one day you will be able to find peace.”
Prosecutors argued that Mansonet was distracted by a text about dinner plans in New York City from her former sister-in-law that said, “Cuban, American, Mexican, pick one.”
Mansonet said she read the message before leaving. She said she was looking down to turn on her rear defogger before striking the car. Prosecutors questioned why the text was unanswered, although the letters “M” and “e” had been typed, and Mansonet said she didn’t remember having typed them.
Mansonet's tearful remarks to the court Friday stopped short of conceding that she had been texting while driving, something Judge David Bauman noted in response to her request for probation and community service of speaking about the dangers of distracted driving.
“I find limited utility to a teaching mechanism decrying that which she herself cannot admit to,” Bauman said. “Imprisonment is not passive deterrence as the defendant argues. It serves as a clarion call to stop texting and driving before the next person dies senselessly because of someone’s reckless and selfish behavior.”
Trial attorney Steven Altman said his client “has dedicated her life to improving the world around her," citing her work at a nonprofit agency that offers social services and runs a food pantry and health centers for the homeless.
“Should her life be defined within the 60 seconds of this tragedy?” he asked.