NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former “Melrose Place” actress whose three-year prison term for a fatal 2010 auto crash sparked outrage from the victim’s family and prompted legal appeals must return to court for a second re-sentencing.
A New Jersey appeals court ordered the new sentencing Friday for Amy Locane, writing that the trial judge’s re-imposing of the same sentence last year didn’t adhere to an earlier appellate ruling and didn’t take into account the severity of the crime.
“The trial judge’s legal analysis was not significantly different the second time he sentenced defendant than it was on the first,” the three-judge panel wrote. They ordered the re-sentencing to take place before a different judge.
James Wronko, an attorney for Locane, said Friday he was preparing an appeal to file with the state Supreme Court. Wronko said Locane “clearly acknowledges her role in this case and is extremely remorseful for what occurred.”
Locane, who acted in 13 episodes of the popular Fox series and also appeared in several movies, served about two-and-a-half years of a three-year sentence for the 2010 accident in Montgomery Township that killed 60-year-old Helene Seeman and seriously injured Seeman’s husband, Fred. She was released in 2015.
Locane was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, assault by auto and other offenses and faced a sentencing range of five to 10 years on the most serious count.
Prosecutors had sought a seven-year sentence.
Locane’s defense contended the crash was an accident and that a third motorist, whose car the actress had bumped into at a traffic light in the minutes before the accident, distracted her by honking at her and chasing her after being rear-ended.
Though the indictment charging Locane didn’t mention intoxication, a state expert testified her blood-alcohol level was likely about three times the legal limit and that she was driving roughly 53 mph in a 35 mph zone at the time of the crash.
After the initial 2013 sentencing, the appeals court in 2016 ordered a re-sentencing and instructed state Superior Court Judge Robert Reed to offer additional justification for his decision to downgrade one of the charges and impose concurrent rather than consecutive sentences.
In Friday’s opinion, the appeals court noted that while the jury convicted Locane of the lesser offense of second-degree vehicular manslaughter — prosecutors had sought aggravated manslaughter, a first-degree crime — Reed then downgraded that to a third-degree offense and imposed the lightest sentence available in that range.
“We fail to see on this record where the interest of justice demands a downgrade,” the appeals court wrote. “Accordingly, we vacate the downgrade.”
Wronko defended Reed’s actions and said the judge was intimately familiar with the case and his imposed sentence accordingly.
“He’s not known as a liberal defense judge,” Wronko said. “He thought in his own evaluation that the appropriate sentence was three years in state prison.”
Wronko said Locane could have to return to prison if a new judge upgrades the third-degree conviction to a second-degree conviction. A second-degree conviction carries a five-to-10-year prison sentence.
By DAVID PORTER
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