In deciding how to sentence a 24-year-old from Oakfield who caused a serious injury accident while drinking and driving on Route 33 in Corfu on April 18, just weeks after a prior DWI arrest, Judge Charles Zambito said he had to wrestle with how to balance punishment, protecting the community, and providing the young man with the best chance at rehabilitation.
To that end, he decided that Jacob Szumigala should serve an intermittent jail sentence in the Genesee County Jail followed by five years under the watchful eye of the County Probation Department.
Nothing against state's parole supervision but Zambito said he believed Szumigala would be more closely monitored by local probation and if there was a violation, Szumigala would be returned quickly to Zambito's court.
"I'm more confident that this type of sentence will provide the community with more protection and you with more supervision," Zambito told Szumigala in Genesee County Court Tuesday afternoon.
Szumigala was stopped by State Police on Lockport Road in Oakfield in March and charged with DWI. With his driving privileges already revoked, Szumigala was driving through Corfu when his gray Hyundai Sonata was heading eastbound on Route 33 at high speed when it struck a Honda sedan.
That Honda struck a black pickup truck. The driver of the Honda, James Hoskins, of Corfu, suffered serious injuries -- considered so serious at the time of the accident that the Crash Management Team was called to investigate the crash in case the Hoskins didn't survive.
Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman said the injuries sustained by Hoskins are life-altering. She argued for a harsh prison term, especially in light of an alleged violation of Szumigala's terms of release while awaiting sentencing.
Szumigala's attorney, Tom Burns, didn't dispute Gorman's assertion that Szumigala tried to get high and when the drug was ineffective, he stopped taking medication to soothe his craving for alcohol and then got drunk.
"That decision to not only use alcohol but to deliberately use a substance intended to induce a high and then stop his treatments that he was authorized to be on and required by his treatment counselor," meant Szumigala deserved a prison term, Gorman argued.
"If there was a time in which you follow the letter of what is expected of you, it's while you're at the mercy of the court before sentencing. But within a month of his appearance, he used alcohol."
Gorman concluded, "how can anything here stop him from drinking other than state incarceration?"
Burns said everybody was disappointed in his client's relapse, including Szumigala. What separated Szumigala from many other defendants in a similar situation is that all the treatment Szumigala has been through -- in-patient, a halfway house, residential treatment -- have all been voluntarily, and other than the one relapse Szumigala's performance throughout treatment has been excellent.
"I was extremely disappointed in his relapse," said Burns, while several members of Szumigala's family sat in the first row of the gallery. "I know his family was disappointed in his relapse."
And unlike many other defendants, Szumigala isn't thinking just of himself, standing before the court expressing remorse over his addiction. Szumigala acknowledges the harm his actions caused other people.
Burns pointed out that if placed on probation, a violation would subject Szumigala to a potentially much longer prison term than available to Zambito under terms of the plea agreement reached in this case. Zambito later said Szumigala could be sent to prison for from five to 15 years if Szumigala violated his probation terms.
In November, Szumigala entered a guilty plea to aggravated vehicular assault and DWI as a misdemeanor and aggravated unlicensed operation. The DWI case in Oakfield is still pending and under terms of his plea agreement, he must plead guilty in that case.
Zambito said that if he sent Szumigala to prison, that would mean he would be taken out of treatment at the Oxford House, cause him to lose his job, and eventually return Szumigala to the community without treatment. That would mean, Zambito said, Szumigala would still be a potential threat to the community.
Szumigala will serve his intermittent jail term on Mondays through Wednesdays.
There is still the issue of restitution to the victims to be resolved and a hearing on restitution was set for March.