By Lynne Hendricks
NEWBURYPORT — A Newburyport mother expressed gratitude over a court decision this week that kept in jail the man who ran down and killed her daughter.
Newburyport resident William White was jailed for 21/2 years for the death of 16-year-old Trista Zinck, who was walking home with her boyfriend, 19-year-old Neil Bornstein, in the early evening hours of Jan. 7, 2003, when White's Chevy Blazer veered out of control and hit the two. White fled the scene, but police later found him and discovered 30 empty beer cans in his car, along with two marijuana pipes.
White was released on the condition that he remain drug- and alcohol-free, but he was seen drinking an oversized beer at a Seabrook bar by a classmate of Zinck. Judge David Lowy sent him back to prison to serve five to seven years; White appealed. This week, an appeals court backed Lowy's decision, striking down White's arguments that Lowy wrongfully punished him for his lack of remorse in the incident.
"I'm glad that they stayed," said Mary Zinck, Trista's mother. "I'm glad they stuck to the decision and weren't swayed by his attorney's words."
Lowy's personal comments on the case formed the basis of White's appeal, but the appeals court upheld the applicable nature of Lowy's statements and argument.
"(White) contends that the judge considered improper factors in sentencing him to state prison," wrote Elin Graydon of the Eastern District Attorney's Office Appeals Division. "In particular, by referring to the defendant's failure to accept responsibility, the defendant contends that the judge was punishing the defendant for a lack of remorse."
The court affirmed White's assertion, but ruled that Lowy's ruling was sound and appropriate in accordance with prior case law.
"The primary goals of a probationary sentence are rehabilitation of the probationer and protection of the public," Graydon wrote. "Probation provides a defendant with the opportunity to avoid incarceration by successfully completing probation, typically by reforming his attitudes and behavior, through education, supervision, submission to drug and alcohol testing, and the like. But, an offender who continues to violate the law is obviously not being rehabilitated."
The court further argued that by imposing a five- to seven-year prison term in this case, the judge's remarks made plain that the need for "just punishment would be based upon considerations that would include the nature of the violation as it bore on the defendant's acceptance of responsibility, the clear and strict warning issued by the plea judge, and the risk to public safety caused by the defendant's continued use of alcohol."
Mary Zinck said she and her husband, David, were in attendance at the hearing this week, feeling compelled to make sure their daughter is remembered in the proceedings. She said she agrees with the stay of the sentence, because she believes White fails to grasp what he took from her daughter and the Zinck family.
"He feels he's done his time, and he wants to get on with his life," Zinck said. "I'm sure Trista would like to get on with her life, too. I don't think he'll ever accept what he's done, and I don't think he has any remorse to this day. He didn't have to go out drinking again. He had his freedom. He was out. He could have turned his life around. He made that choice to go to a public place where people know. That's what you get."
Since White did not complain or object to these special sentencing factors and he clearly admitted violating the terms of his probation, there was no basis for overturning the sentence. The court noted that White's violation and consumption of alcohol occurred simultaneously to his participation in the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
"The judge noted properly that this conduct showed the defendant continued to pose a danger to the public," Graydon wrote.
According to Steve O'Connell, a spokesman with Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office, White can seek another appeal if he files within 20 days. If he fails in that endeavor, White will carry out the remainder of the sentence.
"He would be eligible for parole after serving five years and would serve no more than seven," O'Connell said.