A former Hammonton police officer was sentenced to six years in state prison for leaving the scene of a fatal accident that killed an Atlantic County teenager.
Anthony Scaltrito, 64, told those gathered in the courtroom Friday of the extreme remorse he feels and how he prays every day for the victim.
Justin Montgomery, 15, of Hammonton, was killed Aug. 6, 2010, after being struck by Scaltrito’s truck about 9:15 p.m. across Route 50 in Hamilton Township from the Atlantic County 4-H Fair. Montgomery was leaving the fair and had crossed the road but darted back into the street to grab a hat when he was struck. He was pronounced dead 15 minutes later.
Scaltrito pleaded guilty in April to leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident in exchange for a six-year sentence in state prison, which is what Judge Bernard DeLury handed him Friday.
“I have the most heartfelt sympathy for the loss of this boy Justin,” Scaltrito said through choking sobs. “If I could trade places with him, I would in a minute.”
Scaltrito’s lawyer, Steven Feldman, told the court that his client admitted drinking that night and felt the need to turn himself in when he heard of the incident in media reports. He asked the court to consider reducing the sentence further because Scaltrito was his elderly father’s caretaker.
However, Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton told the court that Scaltrito knew that if he had stopped the night of the accident as was required by law, police would have found alcohol in his system. Ruberton also said Scaltrito had washed the blood from the accident off the truck and had inquired about how to fix the damage before going to Hamilton Township police about the accident.
Ruberton said authorities will never know how much of a factor alcohol was in the accident because the alcohol that Scaltrito admitted to drinking had left his system by the time he turned himself in.
Montgomery would have been 18 in September, his parents, grandmother and foster parents told the court. He was in the care of the foster system when the accident occurred, said John Grasmick, Montgomery’s foster father.
Grasmick said the scene the night Montgomery died was relatively lit up due to the festival. Witnesses told him that they heard a loud thump and then a vehicle speeding up quickly, he said.
“Listening to the things he did afterwards, it’s hard to hear,” Grasmick said. “I just feel bad for Justin. I wasn’t there for him. I felt like I needed to protect him, and I couldn’t. I live with that guilt every day.”
Justin’s parents, Penny and Jay Montgomery, spoke tearfully about their son. Justin had two younger brothers and loved the outdoors and fishing. His favorite songs were by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica, Penny Montgomery said after the sentencing. She described Justin as “a gentle giant.” At 15, he was 5-foot-10 and weighed 250 pounds.
Marie Davidson, Justin’s grandmother, told the court through tears about who he was.
“He was just getting his life together. He was going to be a junior counselor at camp,” Davidson said. “He wanted to be a biologist. He loved to fish. He didn’t get to do any of that.”
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