Northeast Times

Jail saves drunken driver from sentencing

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Wait­ing for justice has be­come a bur­den on res­id­ents of the Ta­cony street where a drunk­en driver last Septem­ber jeop­ard­ized dozens of lives as she plowed her minivan through a Labor Day block party.

But wait­ing has be­come a big prob­lem for de­fend­ant Kath­leen Am­ato, too. With her sen­ten­cing in that case pending, sub­urb­an po­lice ar­res­ted Am­ato on April 5 on new drunk­en-driv­ing charges.

Am­ato, 52, of Wil­low Grove, didn’t show up for her Phil­adelphia sen­ten­cing hear­ing last Wed­nes­day be­cause she was be­hind bars at Bucks County pris­on, un­able to post $20,000 bail.

Mean­while, her frus­trated Phil­adelphia vic­tims are glad for one thing — at least she’s off the roads for the time be­ing.

“This is ri­dicu­lous. She should’ve been in­car­cer­ated and she [was] still out there,” said Marc Haley, a res­id­ent of the 7100 block of He­ger­man St. who at­ten­ded last week’s court ses­sion with his fi­ancee, Anna Boz­arth.

Haley’s 3-year-old god­daugh­ter was among many neigh­bor­hood chil­dren who es­caped harm dur­ing last year’s epis­ode as were Boz­arth’s son, 8, and daugh­ter, 12.

Haley and Boz­arth went to Phil­adelphia’s Mu­ni­cip­al Court last Wed­nes­day hop­ing to give vic­tim im­pact state­ments and urge the court for a stiff sen­tence.

Pris­on time might not be man­dat­ory for Am­ato, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mark Gilson, but he will seek it. Am­ato was charged in Phil­adelphia as a first-time of­fend­er and pleaded guilty on March 5 to DUI, reck­less en­dan­ger­ment and crim­in­al mis­chief.

Ac­cord­ing to Haley, the trouble began when a disheveled and seem­ingly in­tox­ic­ated Am­ato walked in­to their block party and asked neigh­bors to use a bath­room. Neigh­bors told her to get lost.

“They said to her, ‘Who’s your fam­ily? Go use the bath­room at their house,’ ” Haley re­called.

Am­ato ap­par­ently didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the re­sponse, so more words were ex­changed be­fore Am­ato walked around the corner.

Minutes later, she re­turned driv­ing a minivan, Haley said. Am­ato rammed through cars parked at the end of the block as a make­shift bar­ri­cade and drove straight for an in­flat­able wa­ters­lide in the street. Ac­cord­ing to Gilson, Am­ato screamed, “How do you like me now?”

Mean­while, neigh­bors scrambled to avoid her, mov­ing ob­jects and chil­dren from her path.

“My son was in the wa­ter slide at the time,” Boz­arth said. “There were a lot of kids in there and she came down the street and just kept go­ing.”

When Am­ato fi­nally stopped, neigh­bors sur­roun­ded her and tried to pull her from her vehicle, Haley said. But she stepped on the gas ped­al.

“She kept giv­ing it gas and stop­ping and laugh­ing,” Haley said.

Am­ato man­aged to miss Haley’s work van at the op­pos­ite end of the block and drove in­to the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood. Haley and oth­ers fol­lowed her for a short dis­tance un­til she came to a crash­ing halt with flat tires.

Po­lice soon ar­rived and ar­res­ted Am­ato, who at the time lived at an ad­dress on the 9600 block of Ashton Road in the North­east.

Ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port, Am­ato con­tin­ued to mis­be­have at the 15th dis­trict headquar­ters, re­fus­ing to have a blood sample taken or to be placed in a jail cell. She threw her­self to the floor, swore at of­ficers and re­moved her pants, the re­port said.

In court last week, Gilson said that Am­ato was free on bail and sup­posedly in the care of an in-pa­tient be­ha­vi­or­al health pro­gram in Roxbor­ough on April 5. That day, court re­cords show, Middletown Town­ship po­lice ar­res­ted her for driv­ing while un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol and drugs as well as reck­less en­dan­ger­ment and caus­ing an ac­ci­dent in­volving prop­erty dam­age.

Gilson said Phil­adelphia au­thor­it­ies nor­mally would have ar­ranged to have Am­ato brought here for last week’s hear­ing. But lead­ing up to the court date, there was some con­fu­sion as to wheth­er she was go­ing to post bail and show up on her own.

Her Phil­adelphia sen­ten­cing was res­ched­uled for June 25. In Bucks County, she is sched­uled for a May 25 ar­raign­ment and a June 27 plea hear­ing. ••

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You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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