|FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2013, file photo, Amy Locane enters the courtroom to be sentenced in Somerville, N.J.Patti Sapone/NJ Advance Media via AP, Pool, File|
A former “Melrose Place” actress who has already served a prison sentence for a fatal 2010 drunken driving crash in New Jersey is headed back behind bars after a judge agreed with prosecutors Thursday that her initial sentence was too lenient.
Saying Amy Locane still refuses to fully acknowledge her culpability in the crash that killed 60-year-old Helene Seeman and severely injured Seeman’s husband, state Superior Court Judge Angela Borkowski sentenced her to eight years in state prison. State law requires her to serve more than six years before being eligible for parole.
Locane apologized to the Seeman family in a brief statement. She was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody by court deputies after the proceeding in state court in Somerville.
It was a startling development in a case that has bounced around the New Jersey court system for nearly a decade and has now featured four sentencings in front of three judges, plus numerous appeals.
Locane — who acted in 13 episodes of the popular 1990s Fox series and has also appeared in several movies — was convicted on several counts including vehicular manslaughter, and faced a sentencing range of five to 10 years on the most serious count. The state initially sought a seven-year sentence, but a trial judge sentenced her to three years in 2013. An appeals court ruled he misapplied the law, but at a resentencing, the same judge declined to give her additional time.
Last year, a different judge sentenced her to five years, but an appeals court ruled he didn’t follow guidelines it had set and ordered yet another sentencing. Locane’s attorney, James Wronko, had argued unsuccessfully that sentencing her again would violate double jeopardy protections since she had already completed her initial sentence and parole term.
According to witnesses, Locane had consumed several drinks before she headed home on the night of the accident and slammed into the Seemans' car as it turned into their driveway in Montgomery Township, near Princeton. The actress contended a third motorist, whose car Locane had bumped into at a traffic light minutes earlier, distracted her by honking at and chasing her.
Locane wasn’t indicted for drunken driving, but a state expert testified her blood alcohol level was likely about three times the legal limit and that she was driving roughly 53 mph (85 kmh) in a 35-mph (56-kmh) zone at the time of the crash.
Fred Seeman, who nearly died from his injuries suffered in the crash, attended Thursday’s proceeding and said Locane’s shifting of blame “shows contempt for this court and the jury that rendered the verdict.”
The judge took a similar view, and said Locane’s past alcohol abuse makes her a risk for reoffending.
“You made a conscious decision to drink that day and continued to drink, recognizing at the onset that you needed a ride but didn’t obtain one,” Borkowski said. “If you hadn’t gotten behind the wheel of your vehicle on this night, the incident never would have happened.”
Wronko called the sentence “outrageous. She has always taken full responsibility,” and criticized the judge for not taking into account Locane’s current sobriety and her work counseling others against alcohol abuse.
Locane has 45 days to appeal her sentence. Wronko said he is waiting to see if the state Supreme Court decides to hear his appeal on the double jeopardy question.