A Gloversville man accepted responsibility and said he was sorry Monday at his sentencing for killing his best friend and injuring his other passenger in a high-speed crash.
Justin VanNostrand, 20, pleaded guilty in June to felony counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment for the accident. Fulton County Court Judge Polly Hoye sentenced him Monday to 21⁄3 to seven years in state prison on each of the charges; he will serve the sentences concurrently.
VanNostrand was speeding when he crashed his vehicle, killing Christopher Insogna, 19, of Caroga Lake, and critically injuring his sister, Kelsey Insogna, 17, both of whom were passengers. Kelsey Insogna is expected to need to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said VanNostrand was driving at more than 80 mph in a 55 mph zone when he entered an intersection without stopping and struck an embankment in front of a house at 2151 Route 29 in the town of Johnstown. His vehicle then crashed into a truck parked in front of the house, flipped over it and came to rest on its front bumper between the truck and the house. Authorities said VanNostrand was racing with friends when the accident occurred.
At his sentencing, VanNostrand read a prepared statement. “C.J. was my best friend. I have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life. I wish there was a rewind on life. I would do anything to change what I did,” he said. “I do not stand here asking for forgiveness. That would not be fair.”
He said he was sorry and wanted “everyone to know that I hurt too.” He also told the court, “I stand here to accept responsibility.”
More than 25 family members of the victims sat on one side of the courtroom and about 20 members of the VanNostrand family sat on the other side. There were at least six court officers present to keep order.
During his statement, VanNostrand faced Hoye and spoke in a soft tone. He never turned to face the victims’ family, nor his own family, and he entered and left the court without looking at any of them. A member of the VanNostrand family yelled out, “We love you Justin,” as he was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs to begin his prison sentence.
Five members of Christopher Insogna’s family wrote victim impact statements for the court.
Kristine Pinkerton, mother of the two crash victims, read her own statement to the court and the statement of her daughter and other son, Kelsey and Zach Insogna. VanNostrand listened to the statements with his head bowed throughout and they appeared to have an effect on him. When they were completed, he let out a deep breath and stood up to accept his punishment.
Pinkerton told the court that Christopher’s death was her worst nightmare and that it destroyed her family. “My children’s families have been torn apart. There has been so much hurt and anger. Instead of everyone coming together, we have fallen apart. Most of [us] don’t speak anymore. How sad is that for Kelsey and Zach, at a time when they need all of their family,” she said.
Christopher Insogna died on the day of Zach’s birthday, Dec. 4, Pinkerton said. “There is no way to change that for him. It is so hard to know that the same date I gave birth to one of my children, I lost another one of my children,” she said.
In Kelsey’s statement, she wrote that VanNostrand appeared not to comprehend what he had done and had failed to show remorse. “This is a senseless act. You have no idea what I have to go through on a daily basis just to get ready for the day. I thought it over and over in my head as to what type of punishment you should receive to make you understand what you have done by making that decision that night by driving as fast as you did to cause C.J.’s death and me being in a wheelchair,” she wrote.
Her ideal punishment, besides prison, is that VanNostrand talk to children in school about reckless driving and racing, “especially while you have others in the vehicle and the consequences of making that choice.” She added, “it has to come from your heart or there will be no meaning.”
Hoye agreed with Kelsey’s suggestion. In her sentencing statement, the judge told VanNostrand he could “accomplish good things in the future, that you could make yourself feel you are paying back a debt you owe for this terrible, horrible case” by speaking to children in schools.
Outside the courtroom, the families stood separated from one another on the sidewalk as they waited for VanNostrand to leave the area in a police vehicle. At one point, they exchanged angry words and obscene gestures. Court officers intervened and a Johnstown police vehicle drove by. The families then dispersed without further incident.