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What you need to know for 11/21/2017

Man sentenced in Duanesburg crash that killed three

Man sentenced in Duanesburg crash that killed three

Raymond Young held up multiple pictures Monday morning trying to explain the devastation caused to h
Man sentenced in Duanesburg crash that killed three
Kelly Young and Raymond Young, the father of Vanessa Cohn, embrace outside Schenectady County Court on Monday July 18, 2016. Joseph Duffy was sentenced for causing the deaths of Vanessa Cohn, Summer Penny and Betty Brockhum in a fatal accident last Sep...
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Raymond Young held up multiple pictures Monday morning trying to explain the devastation caused to his family by Joseph Duffy.

Young and other family members spoke to the media after Duffy, 28, was sentenced to 6 to 18 years in prison for the Sept. 2, 2015, alcohol- and drug-related crash that killed Vanessa Cohn, Summer Penny and Betty Brockhum — a mother, daughter and grandmother from the same family.

Driving impaired and recklessly that evening, Duffy passed two vehicles on Route 30 in Duanesburg and slammed head-on into the vehicle driven by Cohn, causing the death of all three inside.

Duffy survived.

“He took three innocent lives that were not doing anything wrong,” Young said. “My daughter was taking my granddaughter school shopping. They were a mile-and-a-half away from their house when this terrible accident happened. It’s just been horrid.”

Duffy, at times fidgeting with his handcuffs or plastic ID band, received a sentence that has resulted in calls from both family and prosecutors for legislative changes to allow for consecutive sentences in similar cases. Duffy will serve concurrent sentences in the three deaths.

Duffy pleaded guilty in May to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, each specific to a single victim. He also pleaded guilty to other charges.

The maximum sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide is 81⁄3 to 25 years.

“These laws for killing people need to be changed,” said Monica Stanton, who is Brockhum’s daughter, Cohn’s sister and Penny’s aunt, “because 6 to 18 is not long enough. No other family should have to go through this. Things need to change.”

Duffy admitted to driving under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol in Duanesburg the evening of Sept. 2, 2015, and causing the deaths. Troopers found his blood alcohol content to be 0.04, under the legal limit. But blood tests also showed amphetamine in his system.

Duffy’s full-size SUV slammed head-on that evening into the sedan driven by Cohn. Cohn, 35, of Esperance, was driving her 14-year-old daughter, Summer, and Cohn’s mother, Brockhum.

Duffy moved into the oncoming lane on Route 30 to pass two vehicles but never returned to his lane as he approached a curve and hill near Duanesburg Churches Road shortly before 7:10 p.m.

Duffy’s Dodge Durango then slammed into Cohn’s Suzuki Forenza sedan in the no-passing zone.

Cohn died at the scene, Penny died soon after and Brockhum, 56, of Gloversville, died of her injuries two weeks later.

Stanton recalled each of her lost loved ones in a statement read in court by prosecutor Stephanie Hughes.

Stanton described her mother, Brockhum, as a “kind, loving and generous woman.” She described her sister, Cohn, as “my best friend” who would come help whenever needed. She recalled her niece Summer as a fun-loving, beautiful young woman who never got to graduate, go to college, fall in love or get married.

Duffy chose to get behind the wheel and drive that night, Stanton wrote, saying her prayer was that he would get the maximum.

Duffy “took something very precious away from me and my entire family, three beautiful lives that will only be replaced with the memories they leave behind,” she wrote.

While Duffy’s sentence had been predetermined through his May guilty plea, prosecutor Stephanie Hughes could still call Duffy out on what she saw as a lack of remorse.

During a pre-sentence interview with the Probation Department, sometimes called a pre-sentence investigation — or PSI — Duffy appeared to minimize what really happened, Hughes told the court.

“He was more concerned about when he would be able to drive again and showed little remorse or insight into the taking of three lives,” Hughes said.

Duffy’s attorney, Tracey Chance, attempted to counter by telling the court that Duffy has expressed to her “on many occasions the remorse he feels.”

“He’s wished me to express to the court that he apologizes for any actions, decisions that he made that may have led to the deaths of three people and he’s very apologetic.”

Duffy gave no direct statement himself, but he did briefly interrupt Judge Matthew Sypniewski as the judge talked about Duffy’s apparent lack of remorse.

The judge said he hoped the state Parole Board keeps Duffy behind bars for at least 12 years, if not his entire sentence.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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