BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Two prominent western New Yorkers who have turned their DWI tragedies into forces for change say they were shocked by the Not Guilty verdicts against Getzville physician, Dr. James Corasanti, in the hit-and-run death of Alexandria "Alix" Rice.
"I was angered, I was shocked, last night, but I wouldn't say 100% surprised," Deanna Russo told News 4.
Russo's sister Karen Kwiatkowski was killed by a drunk driver in 1998. That driver pleaded guilty to the drunk driving charges though, and spent 10 years in prison.
Russo has talked with Alix Rice's family, and would tell them, a different verdict might still ring hollow.
"That on one hand, they did not get the answer they wanted to hear in that courtroom, but on the other hand, it is not going to bring back Alix."
Elizabeth Obad, the president of the New York Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said, "We've had more phone calls about this case than I've ever had in 16-and-a-half years."
Obad says most of those calls from people who are outraged by the Corasanti verdict. She is urging members to speak up about driving drunk, which she considers a violent crime.
"It is the most frequently committed violent crime in our nation, and it leaves behind many victims. It has a ripple effect on the whole community, on family and friends."
Obad's son, a Marine Sergeant, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1994 that involved an impaired driver, and she agrees, Alix Rice's family will grieve for a long time, but the verdict only adds to the pain.
"I felt sick to my stomach; I felt really sad for the family. There will never be any closure for the family; there is not any such thing as closure," Obad said.
Russo is worried about the message the verdict might be sending.
"I hope western New York doesn't take it as a sign that drinking and driving, striking and killing someone, then fleeing the scene is okay, because it is not," she said.
Obad is gearing up for Corasanti's sentencing in August, asking statewide members of MADD to send a message to State Supreme Court Justice Sheila DiTullio, who presided over the Corasanti trial that drunk driving deserves a stiff sentence.
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