Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hope On The Judicial Front

There have been far too many Minnesota judges who have gone too soft on sentencing for some of our worst criminals, and we rightly criticize those decisions. A sentence handed down yesterday leaves hope that there remains a modicum of common sense out there, as the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: "Teen gets prison in brutal hit-and-run".

Pioneer Press

Fabrizio Montermini had already benefited from the best schooling and drug treatment money could buy when the 18-year-old climbed behind the wheel drunk in January, slammed into another car and then dumped his injured and dying passengers in a dark, freezing parking lot.

Ramsey County District Judge Elena Ostby said Montermini's three failed attempts at treatment and his cruel actions that night leading to the death of 18-year-old Brian Fitzpatrick and the injury of two others, warranted prison. Ostby sentenced the Eden Prairie teen from an affluent family to 12 years in prison. An additional 6½-year prison sentence was stayed unless Montermini violates the terms of his release.

Ostby called her decision agonizing but in the end leveled harsh words at Montermini, who a year earlier had given a speech in front of his school about his battles with cocaine and other illicit drugs.

"It appears that he simultaneously wears his chemical dependency treatment as a badge of honor and as an excuse to get away with his inexcusably bad judgment on the night in question," Ostby said.

"He seemed to brag about the variety of substances he had used in the past and romanticized his past chemical use, saying he 'fell in love with it' and calling it 'a selfish and brutal lover,' " she said.

Montermini, now 19, had pleaded guilty to five felonies in March including kidnapping, criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular injury. His attorneys had asked for a year or less of jail and more treatment and probation, describing the former honors student, who earned a 4.0 his first semester at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., as a "good person."
Yes, it's about personal responsibility.

The defense asked for probation, and in Minnesota that was actually a potential outcome. This judge, however, did the right thing.

But the judge said she wasn't sure if Montermini was truly remorseful and questioned whether his good works in high school were more about "padding his resume" so he could attend a prestigious college than making the world a better place. She also noted the similarities in the fatal crash to another accident in which Montermini, accused of doing drugs, totaled a car with passengers inside.

The judge expressed sympathy for the Fitzpatricks and Monterminis but said the defendant could only blame himself.