Anderson Sotomayor, the Vineland man charged with six drunken-driving offenses from April 9 to June 28, was sentenced Thursday to one year in jail and lost his driving privileges for the next 33 years.
Municipal Court Judge John Kaspar imposed the sentence after Sotomayor, 45, pleaded guilty to a series of charges that included driving while intoxicated April 9 and April 25 and May 12.
Sotomayor also pleaded guilty to single counts of refusing to take a breath test, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to stop at a stop sign. The latter two charges are not related to drunken-driving incidents but to an April 2 accident during which Sotomayor hit a bus.
The judge also imposed penalties on Sotomayor that included $6,342 in fines and $700 in motor vehicle surcharges.
Other than to answer “yes” or “no” to questions posed by Kaspar, Sotomayor said little, although when asked by Kaspar what kind of alcohol he consumed in connection with two of the drunken-driving offenses, he replied “beer.”
He did not comment to reporters as he was led out of the courtroom pending his transfer back to the Cumberland County jail in Bridgeton.
Prior to sentencing, defense attorney Frank Amari told Kaspar that his “natural conclusion or suspicion was that one or more things that have happened in the defendant’s life caused this individual to seek comfort in alcohol. That is, in fact, the case.”
Neighbors said earlier that Sotomayor suffered several personal tragedies in the past year, including the loss of his right leg.
After sentencing, Amari asked Kaspar whether Sotomayor could serve half of his sentence in some kind of rehabilitation setting. Kaspar said he would leave that possibility up to corrections officials but indicated it might be a good idea.
“Society would be best served by doing so,” Kaspar said. “I think it would be in everyone’s interest, not to mention Mr. Sotomayor.”
City police charged Sotomayor with drunken driving April 9, April 11 and April 25, May 12, May 16, and June 28. Sotomayor has previous convictions for drunken-driving offenses in 1989 and 1992, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission.
Sotomayor did not plead guilty to drunken driving in the April 11 incident. Assistant City Prosecutor Ed Duffy told the court that there was not enough evidence to prove without a reasonable doubt that Sotomayor was driving while intoxicated that day. Sotomayor pleaded guilty to charges of reckless driving and refusing to take a breath test filed in connection with that incident.
Duffy also said the prosecution would not pursue drunken-driving charges lodged against Sotomayor for the May 16 incident.
Thursday’s admissions of guilt were part of a plea agreement with the city prosecutor’s office. That agreement resulted in the dropping of charges that include refusal to take a breath test, reckless driving, failing to maintain a driving lane, having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle, failure to produce registration or insurance documents, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and improper use of a center turning lane.
Sotomayor still faces other charges related to motor vehicle incidents on Jan. 20, during which he allegedly failed to show proof of registration and insurance, and the drunken-driving offenses of May 16 and June 28. Duffy said the city was not prepared to move forward with those cases.
Police asked a judge to set bail for Sotomayor after his arrest May 12 in an effort to stop him from driving. The on-call judge refused, saying that was prohibited under state law. State court officials said the judge acted correctly, as drunken driving was not a criminal offense for which bail could be set.
Sotomayor was sent to the county jail after the May 16 incident, which included a criminal drug possession charge. He was eventually released, only to be arrested again on a drunken-driving charge.
The first five drunken-driving arrests of Sotomayor, which were widely publicized, prompted state legislators to propose a bill that would make some drunken-driving offenses criminal acts.
Identical bills proposed in both houses of the Legislature state that:
- A person convicted of a second or subsequent drunken-driving offense that occurred within 60 days of the first offense would be guilty of a fourth-degree crime. That crime is punishable by a fine of as much as $10,000, 18 months imprisonment or both.
- A court can set bail of as much as $10,000 when a person is charged with a second or subsequent drunken-driving offense within 60 days of the first offense. The court can also at that time suspend the person’s driving privileges under those circumstances.
- Law-enforcement officers must record all drunken-driving summonses into the appropriate system within three hours of the end of the shift during which they issued the summons.
No date for votes on the measures is set.
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