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Accident victim speaks out at sentencing of former Utica firefighter

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - 24 year old Kate Rizzo of Waterville has spent the past year and eight months recovering from head and internal injuries suffered in a December 18, 2010 car accident in Rome, but the emotional wounds from the circumstances surrounding the accident are also still very present.

Friday morning in Oneida County Court, Rizzo's former boyfriend, 25 year old Travis Maurine was sentenced for being the drunk driver in the accident.

Maurine, who was a Utica firefighter at the time of the accident, admitted last month during a court appearance that he was the one driving Rizzo's Volkswagon Beetle that night, and he was drunk when he crossed over the yellow line on Route 233 in Rome, and ran into an oncoming car, head-on.

Maurine and Rizzo had just left Rizzo's company Christmas party in Rome.

The two people in the other vehicle were injured, but prosecutors say they have recovered from their injuries.

Last month's admittance to the crimes of vehicular assault and assault came with a plea offer of five years probation, with the first six months served in the Oneida County Jail.

Prosecutors say after the crash, Maurine moved Rizzo's body outside of the vehicle with her legs still hanging in the driver's side of the car, and told police she was driving and not him.

After the accident, Rizzo was unconcious and when she came out of it at the hospital, did not know who was driving due to the extent of her injuries.

During Friday mornings sentencing, Rizzo spoke directly to Maurine, who wouldn't even look at her.

"The worst part was not just that you pointed the finger at me, but you tried to pronounce me dead on the scene and actually got in the way of my care, to the point of almost being arrested," Rizzo told Maurine in court. "I never thought that the man who supposedly loved me and who was a first responder would move me, knowing your actions could have ended my life right there."

Before delivering the sentence Friday morning, Judge Michael Dwyer asked Maurine if he had anything to say and all Maurine said was, "I'm sorry this happened."

Judge Dwyer then had some words for Maurine himself

"Although some people may appreciate the simple 'I'm sorry', it doesn't feel heartfelt," Judge Dwyer said. "You understand, but for Miss Rizzo, still having compassion for you, this would have resulted in a state prison sentence, that's the only thing that kept you out of that situation."

There is another aspect to this case that made this even more horrific for the Rizzo family.

22 year old Gerald Rizzo, Kate's younger brother was sent to prison himself for a drunk driving accident that took place just three months before her accident in 2010.

Gerald Rizzo is serving a one and a half to four and a half year prison sentence for driving the wrong way on the arterial in Utica in August of 2010, seriously injuring four people.

That accident came just three months before Kate's, and she spoke of that in court Friday morning as well.

"You let my mother believe her daughter made the same tragic mistake that her son had made just months before," Rizzo said.

Judge Dwyer sentenced Maurine to the agreed upon plea offer of five years probation, with the first six months served in the Oneida County Jail, but Maurine can also not have a single drop of alcohol during his five years probation.

If he does, Judge Dwyer told Maurine he will, without any hesitation, send Maurine to state prison, something Maurine escaped with this plea deal.

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