A 33-year-old Johnstown woman accused of driving under the influence on Nov. 27, 2010, and causing the death of her passenger, Matthew Kozak, was sentenced Tuesday to 11 1/2 to 23 months in Somerset County Jail followed by three years of supervised probation.
She was credited for 99 days of time served.
Erica Dawn Gindlesperger, Bella Vista Drive, and Kozak's mother, Michaelene Kozak, cried throughout the hearing before President Judge John M. Cascio. Gindlesperger was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter and driving while under the influence of controlled substances. Kozak was Gindlesperger's boyfriend.
"Obviously my choices I made are very poor ones," Gindlesperger said. "Obviously this is an understatement. . . . Matt is no longer here. I don't know how I can live with that every day."
Gindlesperger pleaded guilty June 19 as part of a plea agreement. A more serious offense of homicide by vehicle was withdrawn.
The accident happened on Route 403 near The Crow's Nest restaurant. Gindlesperger was unable to maintain control of her vehicle while rounding a turn. The vehicle crossed into the southbound lane, went into a ditch, climbed an embankment, struck a utility pole and overturned.
Kozak, 34, Penn Avenue, Jenner Township, was injured in the crash and died of a traumatic brain injury Dec. 2, 2010, at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.
Conemaugh Township police said Gindlesperger was under the influence of benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, and alprazolam and lorazepam, medications used to treat anxiety, at the time of the accident.
Cascio said there was obviously a drug and alcohol problem that she needs to control and deal with on a daily basis.
"Certainly it was your conduct that caused the death of this young man," he said.
Kozak's mother asked Assistant District Attorney Carolann Young to read her statement about what the loss of her son means to her future.
"I try to keep busy, but Matthew is not far from my mind," his mother wrote. "I look at the future every day and wonder why. Holidays are just not there anymore."
Cascio ordered Gindlesperger to pay $1,500 in fines and to attend DUI safe driving school and a DUI victim impact class. She must undergo drug and alcohol assessments, successfully completing any recommended treatment.
"Erica has accepted responsibility for her conduct on the night in question," defense attorney Arthur McQuillan of Johnstown said. "We believe the sentence was fair and appropriate under the circumstances. She has expressed her sincere remorse to all involved."