Breaking news from Lake County:
From the Chicago Tribune (story by Dan Hinkel and Susan Berger):
Highland Park woman was sentenced to five years in prison for running over and killing a 5-year-old girl after abusing inhalants.
Carly Rousso, 20, remained calm as she was sentenced to 5 years in prison for reckless homicide and 4 years in prison for aggravated DUI. The sentences are to be served together. She stands to serve about 3 ½ years for time off for good behavior.
Outside the courtroom, Rousso’s mother, Gabrielle Rousso, hugged supporters, wept and repeatedly said of her daughter, “She is so scared.”
Through an interpreter, Tomas Santos de Jesus, father of 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, said he is unhappy with what he saw as a light sentence.
“Her life was taken away in a horrible way,” the interpreter said. ..
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Rousso to eight years in prison, while defense attorneys requested probation or, failing that, the minimum prison sentence…
On Wednesday morning, prosecutors and defense lawyers worked to present two distinct narratives for Judge Booras’ consideration.
Prosecutors spoke of a heartbroken family and a young victim cut down unexpectedly. Rousso’s lawyers presented their client as a troubled young woman who made a horrific mistake after using substances to numb her own traumas.
Before a courtroom packed with media and supporters of both the defendant and the victim, Assistant State’s Attorney Stella Veytsel read statements written by Jaclyn’s parents, who sat silent near the front. Her mother asked in her statement for the longest prison sentence possible…
“Seeing my daughter killed in front of me is something I cannot put into words,” the girl’s mother, Modesta Sacramento Jimenez, said in the statement.
“It has left a painful void in my life,” she said.
Sacramento Jimenez said she didn’t expect to ever forgive Rousso; she hopes God will, she said.
Called to the stand by defense lawyers, Rousso’s father, David, wept as he described his daughter as a loving person who has matured in the last two years.
“She’s an extraordinarily wonderful human being who made a terrible mistake,” he said…
Public sentiments in the high-profile case have been colored by race and class, with the defendant coming from a prosperous family and the victim from a Hispanic family of modest income. Rousso’s lawyers have noted she is adopted and her biological mother is Mexican-American.
Rousso’s sentencing hearing was unusual in that the defense called multiple therapists who confirmed what her lawyers have contended – that Rousso suffered childhood miseries, the effects of which lingered even after years of professional help arranged by her parents. They said Rousso’s traumas included her adoption, rejection by her peers, bullying, her rape as a teenager by an acquaintance and a pit bull attack that disfigured her face and left her with some 400 stitches…
After the pit bull attack disfigured her face, David Rousso said, kids made fun of her appearance.
One of her therapists, Heather Keith, said Rousso was hospitalized multiple times after the crash out of concern for her safety. She reported feeling suicidal, Keith said. Prosecutors asked questions that elicited answers noting that Rousso continued using alcohol and inhalants while she was free on bond after the crash.
Rousso’s past diagnoses have included major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which therapists said were linked to her traumatic childhood. Keith said it is common for people suffering PTSD to use intoxicants to try to escape their pain.
I am not very comfortable second-guessing sentencing. But typically a case like this would result in a sentence closer to the range that the prosecutors were seeking than the probation sentence Rousso’s attorneys were seeking, or even the five year sentence that she received. This is not a typical case, however, in that the defendant is a young woman with no background and with issues of her own (which she has worked on and not tried to use an excuse, merely an explanation for her conduct). That much was obvious when the judge did not take her into custody immediately after finding her guilty. That he let her remain on bond had me thinking that he was seriously considering probation.
Clearly, Rousso’s attorneys helped her cause tremendously by presenting evidence of her depression and treatment, as well as her remorse for her actions. I am speculating, but I also suppose that her attorneys counseled her to make serious changes in her life and helped orchestrate sympathetic press events like the one I posted a few weeks ago where she spoke to young people about how her attempts to escape her problems by inhaling cleaning fluids lead to a young girl’s death.
Five years is a comparatively light sentence for what she did. But it is still a very significant sentence, especially for a 20 year old who has never been in prison before. I hope that Jaclyn’s family will find some peace, and I hope that Carly is able to use this experience to transform herself into something better.