Drunken driver gets 6 months for accident, leaving the scene

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

A Juneau woman who, while drunk, crashed her car into three other vehicles, fled the scene and attempted to elude police on foot, was sentenced Thursday in Superior Court to six months in prison. Crash victims said they were angry at the "light" sentence.

Laura Stidolph, 21, pleaded guilty earlier this year to drunken driving, a misdemeanor, and failing to render assistance following an accident, a felony.

Three felony counts of third-degree assault, as well as misdemeanor counts of refusal to submit to a breath test and disorderly conduct, were dismissed as part of a plea agreement between former Assistant District Attorney Sue McLean and defense attorney Thomas Nave.

Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks sentenced Stidolph to one year in prison with nine months suspended for the drunken driving charge.

He sentenced her to four years in prison with three years and six months suspended on the felony count. Weeks suspended imposition of the felony sentence for three years, but said she would serve 90 days of that time. The felony will be wiped from Stidolph's record if she doesn't commit any crimes for three years after her release.

Weeks said a 21-day stint at an alcohol rehabilitation center in Seattle will count toward time-served. With time off for good behavior, Stidolph will be out of prison in about three months.

Stidolph also must pay restitution, which will be determined within 30 days.

Weeks told Stidolph in court that his sentence was meant to reaffirm to society what she did was wrong, while affording her a second chance.

According to court records, about 8:20 p.m. Dec. 4, Stidolph crashed her car into three vehicles at the intersection of Egan Drive and Vanderbillt Hill Road and drove away. She was located a short distance from the wreck. Police questioned her. Stidolph ran into traffic on Egan Drive. Officers ran after her. She fought with them as they pulled her from traffic, records said.

Stidolph cried as she apologized during her hearing.

"I just want to tell the court and the victims I'm taking steps to change my life and how very sorry I am for what I've caused," she testified. "I will do everything I can to make sure this never happens again."

Nave told the Empire Stidolph does not remember much of the incident. During the hearing, Nave said Stidolph realizes she is an alcoholic and plans to "never drink alcohol again."

Victim Kimberly Frangos said she thinks the sentence was too lenient and sends people the message there are few consequences for driving drunk.

Blair Ramsdell, 21, was driving her boyfriend and two young children down Egan when her vehicle was struck.

"My babies were in that car," said Ramsdell. "I'm so angry. This just isn't fair. She isn't going to learn from this."

While Nave said the victims have a right to be outraged, he said people who think the sentence is too lenient obviously have never been to prison.

"They've obviously never seen prison from the perspective of a 21-year-old girl who's never been in trouble before - it's devastating," he said. "It's not just the jail time, it's the feeling of knowing she caused harm to other people. ... She'll live with that for the rest of her life."

• Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.

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