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Cole draws maximum prison term for crash

Cole draws maximum prison term for crash

Cole released after sentencing, due to pending appeal
Cole draws maximum prison term for crash
John Cole at Saratoga County Court during his sentencing on Friday, May 11, 2018.
Photographer: Erica Miller

BALLSTON SPA — John Cole received the maximum sentence of seven years in prison on Friday for felony assault, driving while ability impaired and reckless driving.

Cole, the owner of a chain of area collision shops, was the driver of a car that crashed on Sitterly Road in Halfmoon on March 11, 2017. The crash left a passenger in his car, Deanna Shapiro, paralyzed.

He was convicted on March 16, but was acquitted on charges of vehicular assault and DWI. 

He has been free on his own recognizance since March 21, when an appeals court judge sided with Cole's lawyer, Cheryl Coleman, regarding two key issues related to his trial. 

Coleman successfully argued before Justice Eugene Devine that Cole was not a flight risk and that there were potentially good arguments for an appeal.

He remained free after Friday's sentencing, as the appeal process continued.

Before Saratoga County Court Judge James Murphy read Cole his sentence, he said Cole told a probation officer that Shapiro and her husband, Scott, were not wearing their seat belts. 

"Your car was speeding in excess of 70 miles per hour; you pressed the pedal to the floor prior, during and after the crash," Murphy said to Cole. "Not once the brake was touched, and you blamed the Shapiro's for not having their seat belts buckled as if having had their seat belts buckled somehow exonerated you.

"You were impaired by alcohol, you were speeding, you were reckless, you were showing off and you're blaming the Shapiro's."

Murphy continued, "You don't get it. It's everyone else's fault but your own, and today's the day your'e going to find out that it is your fault."

Cole, who was given the chance to speak by Murphy, was crying so hard, he could hardly speak.

"I am deeply sorry and sad for the pain this has caused so many people," he said. "It's been an extremely difficult time for myself and my family, and I can't begin to imagine how it's been for the Shapiro's.

"While the circumstances won't be the same, I just hope in time that we can all continue to heal." 

On the count of felony assault, Murphy sentenced Cole to seven years in state prison and three years of post-release supervision. He must also submit a DNA sample, and pay a $375 surcharge, which must be paid by July 11. 

Cole received a 15-day sentence, $500 fine and will have his driver's license revoked for the driving while ability impaired charge. 

The reckless driving charge landed Cole a 30-day sentence, $300 fine and further revoked his license. 

Murphy ordered Cole's seven, 15- and 30-day sentences to run concurrently. 

Cole has a criminal history that started in 1982, according to Murphy. 

Cole's prior charges include assault, burglary, reckless endangerment, menacing with a weapon, criminal use of a firearm, possessing prison contraband, and possessing stolen property.

He has served multiple prior prison sentences. 

Shapiro said while she felt justice had been served, she wishes Cole would've been taken into custody. 

"It's very sad that two families' lives have been ruined," she said. "He's got children too and when this finally goes through they won't have their father with them.

"It's a sad, sad situation."

Shapiro's husband, Scott, said it was unfortunate how the situation has played out. 

"It's been as if the Shapiro's were going after the Cole's and that was never the case, and is still not the case today," he said. "We were seeking accountability."

Scott, like his wife, wished Cole was taken into custody immediately after Friday's sentencing. 

"We're struggling to understand how the law can allow a repeat felon to get up and walk after being found guilty by a jury," he said. "Dee doesn't have that option." 

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