Convicted motorcyclist gets seven years for trooper's death during chase
By WILLIAM KATES
Associated Press Writer
February 14, 2007, 3:51 PM EST
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A motorcyclist convicted in the death of a state trooper during a high-speed chase was sentenced Wednesday to 7 years in state prison by a judge who turned down a prosecutor's bid for a longer sentence, saying the trooper was partly to blame for his own death.
James Carncross will begin serving his sentence for the death of Trooper Craig Todeschini after completing a four-year term he is serving for violating probation from a previous conviction _ meaning he will stay behind bars for 11 years.
"Both young men exercised poor judgment. It cost one young man his life, the other his freedom," Onondaga County Judge William Walsh said to a courtroom packed with both men's families, and nearly two dozen troopers and state police officials.
As a second-time felon, the 21-year-old Jamesville man faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for aggravated criminally negligent homicide. He was convicted by a jury in December following a seven-day trial.
Todeschini, 25, of Geddes, was killed April 23, 2006 when he crashed his patrol sport utility vehicle into a tree as he was rounding a curve in pursuit of a sport-style motorcycle in the hamlet of Pompey Hill, about 15 miles south of Syracuse. The chase reached 100 mph at times.
Defense attorney Salvatore Piemonte argued during the trial that the trooper was responsible for his own death because he drove recklessly and failed to follow proper state police pursuit policy. An appeal of the verdict is planned, Piemonte said.
"Unquestionably, Mr. Carncross brought about the death of Trooper Todeschini by setting in motion the chain of events ... but what troubles the court is that Trooper Todeschini did not die at the hands of Mr. Carncross, but rather by his own," said Walsh.
Walsh noted that even the prosecution's own accident reconstruction expert testified Todeschini was traveling too fast for his vehicle and the road conditions. The judge said he hoped officers in similar situations in the future will remember Todeschini's example and not risk their lives for the price of a speeding ticket.
Turning to Carncross, Walsh said he had failed to take advantage of repeated opportunities to "do the right thing" and also endangered innocent motorists on the road that day.
Carncross did not testify during the trial but on Wednesday he spoke briefly in court, telling the Todeschini family he was sorry and never intended for anyone to get hurt.
"If I knew then what I know now, I would have stopped," he said. "I have no way to take any of it back. I will try to do the best I can to live and learn. I hope someday ... you can forgive me," he said.
Todeschini's mother also addressed the court.
Cindy Todeschini said she did not hate Carncross, but disliked the choices he made that day _ that he chose to speed and lead her son on the deadly chase, and that he failed to pull over.
District Attorney William Fitzpatrick asked for a 12-year sentence for Carncross, who he said was seeking mercy based on a series of myths _ that he didn't know he was being pursued; that he had expressed his remorse by voluntarily surrendering to police; and that he was treated unfairly during his trial.
One by one, Fitzpatrick refuted each "myth."
The prosecutor said the chase was described by witnesses and fortuitously caught on two remote-controlled cameras.
Carncross turned himself in only because investigators were closing in on him as a suspect and his apprehension was "inevitable," Fitzpatrick said.
He also noted that Carncross made statements to others that he was involved in Todeschini's accident and took steps to hide his motorcycle and clothing and even implicate another person.
Outside court, James Todeschini, the trooper's father, said he was surprised by Carncross' apology, but appreciated it.
"We are a forgiving family. We understand exactly what the Carncross family is going through, too," Todeschini said. "My faith tells me to forgive him but right now my heart is not quite there yet."
Fitzpatrick called the apology "too little, too late."
Fitzpatrick agreed there was blame to share in the accident, but said he did not think the sentencing was an appropriate time to bring it up. James Todeschini said he respected the judge's remarks but had no other comment.