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What you need to know for 11/24/2017

Driver gets 5-15 years in prison for Skidmore student's death


Driver gets 5-15 years in prison for Skidmore student's death

The man who struck three Skidmore College students while driving drunk last Halloween, killing one o
Driver gets 5-15 years in prison for Skidmore student's death
Thomas Gorman with his public defender Andrew Blumenberg at Saratoga County Court for his sentencing on Monday afternoon, March 21, 2016. Gorman plead guilty for the death of Skidmore student Michael Hedges, striking four students on Clinton Street Hal...
Photographer: Erica Miller

The man who struck three Skidmore College students while driving drunk last Halloween, killing one of them, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in state prison on Monday, the maximum sentence for first-degree vehicular manslaughter.

Thomas H. Gorman, 65, of Wilton, stared at his lap throughout the hour-long proceeding, in which four Skidmore students gave victim impact statements about the night of Oct. 31, when Gorman hit three students who were walking on Clinton Street near the Saratoga Springs campus.

“I don’t think you truly grasp the devastation you have caused,” said Saratoga County Court Judge James A. Murphy III as he imposed the sentence.

The accident occurred as students were returning to the campus from a nearby off-campus party. District Attorney Karen A. Heggen said all the students were off the road as they walked, and there was no evidence that Gorman braked or took evasive action before the crash, which left his windshield shattered and the fender and hood of his 2009 Kia Optima damaged. Hedges was thrown about 20 feet past the tree line, said sheriff’s Investigator Roger Zalucky.

“All the damage was caused by human bodies,” Heggen said during a press briefing after the sentencing, which was attended about Hedges’ family and about 40 representatives of Skidmore, including college President Philip Glotzbach.

Gorman pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and two counts of vehicular assault. He was also sentenced to 2 to 6 years years in prison on a vehicular assault charge. The sentences will run concurrently. He will also lose his drivers’ license and be required to use an ignition interlock for three years if he is allowed to drive again.

In a brief statement, Gorman repeatedly apologized. “As a parent I understand and I am very sorry for the pain I have caused … I thought I had waited long enough. I would never intentionally hurt someone. If I could change places, I would.”

But prosecutor Patrick Campion said Gorman has failed to take responsibility for his actions. He noted that when interviewed for a pre-sentencing report, Gorman blamed conditions on Clinton Street and glaucoma, and maintained he was driving sober.

A blood-alcohol test administered after the accident found Gorman had a BAC of 0.20, more than twice the level needed to prove drunk driving.

District Attorney Karen Heggen said the scene of the accident was “horrific,” and one student who was there said she remembers the “blood curdling screams” of the victims, as well as her anger at Gorman, who didn’t get out of his car at the scene.

“You will never be forgiven by this community for what you have taken from us,” said 19-year-old Katherine Horvlic said in a sometimes-tearful statement.

She recalled Hedges as having “a warm caring personality that made him one of the easiest people to be around.”

Hedges, 19, was a freshman from Lenox, Massachusetts. The crash occurred at 11:19 p.m., and Hedges died at Albany Medical Center Hospital about six hours later.

In a statement read by Campion, Hedges mother, Stephanie May Hedges, said the loss of her oldest child cannot be put into words. “The impact of this cannot be explained. People are hurting,” she wrote.

The two students who were critically hurt in the crash also spoke in court.

Oban Galbraith of Shelburne, Vermont, suffered five broken ribs, a punctured lung, liver laceration and other injuries. He said he woke up in an ambulance not knowing what had happened. When he returned to school, “my friends described me as physically present but mentally absent. It is one of the most tragically apt descriptions I can think of.”

“Nobody can give me back what I have lost,” said Toby Freeman of New York City, who suffered a leg injury.

“I felt like I was in a dream, seeing things happen but unable to stop it,” said student William Blauvelt, who was brushed by Gorman’s car but not otherwise injured.

In imposing the sentence, Murphy said Gorman appears not to understand the gravity of his conduct. Gorman continued to stare downward as Murphy spoke, as he did through most of the proceeding.

“This is no accident. This is conduct you chose by drinking and driving,” Murphy said. “You are lucky you are not in worse circumstances by killing more than just one person.”

Gorman had a prior conviction for driving with ability impaired in 2013, Heggen said.

While Gorman admitted to drinking Scotch that night, Heggen noted that an open beer container was in his car.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette,net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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