A teenager who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in a car crash that killed a Ballston Spa girl could be granted youthful offender status at his sentencing today.
The move would seal the record of Brian Vecchio, 18, of 110 Brookline Road and allow him to say on future job and college applications that he has never been convicted of a crime, but it would not spare him prison time.
Regardless of Judge Jerry J. Scarano’s ruling on the youthful offender issue this morning in Saratoga County Court, Vecchio will still have to serve the sentence the judge gives him, which is expected to be 1 1⁄3 to four years in prison, which Vecchio and prosecutors agreed on when he pleaded guilty.
Vecchio was charged after a Jan. 7 single-vehicle crash claimed the life of Noelle Johnsen, 17. Johnsen, a horse aficionado and accomplished rider, was a junior at Ballston Spa High School and was a passenger in Vecchio’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup as he drove on Barkersville Road in Providence that night. Vecchio sped past another vehicle filled with teenagers, then lost control and veered off the road, hitting a utility pole.
Vecchio was originally charged with misdemeanor reckless driving, but authorities learned from the “black box” data recorder in his vehicle that he was going 98 mph before the crash, and a Saratoga County grand jury indicted him on a charge of second-degree manslaughter. In a plea deal in late May, he admitted to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide and in return agreed to serve the maximum sentence for that charge.
Vecchio doesn’t have a prior criminal record, said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III. That’s one of the criteria the judge uses to determine whether to grant youthful offender status, which is available to people younger than 19 who have committed their first crime.
The judge also takes into account information gathered by the Probation Department in a pre-sentence investigation report about the offender’s character and family background.
“It’s a balancing of his age and his crime versus how an open conviction would affect the rest of his life,” Murphy said. “It’s entirely up to the court.”
One unusual thing about the Vecchio case is that no alcohol or drugs were involved, he said.
“That’s significantly different than our typical vehicle death,” Murphy said.