Not over: NJ court orders ex-actress to be sentenced a 4th time
A former “Melrose Place” actress who has already served a sentence for a fatal drunken driving crash could go back to prison.
The complicated legal history of the case against Amy Locane includes three sentences imposed by two judges, as well as numerous appeals. It stems from a crash in March 2010 that killed Helene Seeman and seriously injured her husband, Fred, as they turned into their driveway in Montgomery.
Locane's case has bounced around the New Jersey court system for several years as prosecutors have sought a longer sentence than the one initially imposed by a judge in 2013.
This week, an appeals court ruled that a different judge incorrectly resentenced her last year, and sent the case back for another sentencing.
The ruling issued Wednesday also rejected Locane’s argument that sentencing her again violates double jeopardy protections since she’s already completed her sentence and parole term.
James Wronko, Locane's attorney, said Friday he would appeal to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take several months to play out.
“Ms. Locane has been out of prison for five years, and it's been two years since she completed parole,” Wronko said. “During this entire time she has done everything they’ve asked her to do, and it’s difficult to explain to her two girls why five years later, Mommy’s being put back in prison.”
The actress contended the crash was an accident and that a third motorist, whose car Locane had bumped into at a traffic light minutes earlier, distracted her by honking at her and chasing her.
The indictment didn’t mention intoxication, but a state expert testified Locane’s blood alcohol level was likely about three times the legal limit and that she was driving roughly 53 mph in a 35-mph zone at the time of the crash.
She was convicted on several counts including vehicular manslaughter, and faced a sentencing range of five to 10 years on the most serious count. The state sought a seven-year sentence, but the trial judge sentenced her to three years. An appeals court ruled he misapplied the law, but at a resentencing, the same judge declined to give Locane additional time.
This week's ruling criticized state Superior Court Judge Kevin Shanahan, who resentenced Locane last year to five years, for employing “a methodology all his own” and ignoring an earlier appeals court's instructions on how he should weigh mitigating and aggravating factors in the case.
The appeals court also held that Locane waived double jeopardy protections when she voluntarily began serving her initial sentence while the state was still appealing it.
“When the government timely appeals an initial sentence or a sentence imposed at a re-sentencing, a defendant is put on notice that the sentence may change and he or she cannot acquire a legitimate expectation of finality,” the judges wrote.
Wronko disputed that analysis and said Locane didn't voluntarily surrender in 2013 but that the state sought to revoke her bail and the judge agreed.
Locane acted in 13 episodes of the popular Fox series and has also appeared in several movies.