A Mont Alto, Pa., woman was sentenced to three years in state prison Thursday for her involvement in a July 2010 crash that killed Waynesboro teenager Angalena K. Robinson.
Mary Ellen Bonebrake, 55, pleaded guilty June 18 to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and aggravated assault. Bonebrake wrote a letter to the judge last month saying she felt forced into the plea.
A distraught Bonebrake reiterated during an unusual sentencing hearing she does not feel the case was thoroughly investigated, but the judge determined she accepted her plea voluntarily. She did not specifically answer his questions about withdrawing her plea or obtaining a new attorney.
“I feel I was wronged,” Bonebrake said in response to the judge’s questions.
Defense attorney Philip Masorti said he advised his client the prosecution’s plea offer was a good one. He said she could have been sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison if found guilty at trial.
The defense team did an extensive investigation, and its accident reconstruction specialist agreed with the Pennsylvania State Police troopers’ findings, Masorti said. The only real option was an involuntary intoxication defense based on Bonebrake’s migraine treatment, but it was not clear whether a judge would allow it, he said.
Masorti told the judge he would have done his best at trial, but felt his client needed to “gather herself, step forward and realize what occurred.”
Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Walsh asked Assistant District Attorney David Rahauser for his thoughts on whether the plea was taken voluntarily.
Defense attorneys filed every motion they could think of, Rahauser said.
“If she has ‘Monday morning quarterback’ thoughts, I do not believe that rises to the level of coerced. ... It looks to me like someone unwilling to accept the consequences of her actions,” he said.
“No one is living in my head and knows the remorse I feel,” Bonebrake said.
Sheriff’s deputies handed out boxes of tissues to people packing the courtroom for both the prosecution and defense. The hearing lasted more than an hour and a half.
In February, Dr. Paul Orange of Fayetteville, Pa., testified during an evidentiary hearing about Bonebrake’s medical records from his family medical practice. He said on July 29, 2010, his staff gave the woman an injection of Phenergan for nausea associated with a persistent migraine.
Bonebrake had a driver with her at the appointment and knew from previous injections she was not supposed to drive after receiving the shot, Orange testified.
At about 2 p.m. that day, Bonebrake was driving a Pontiac that crossed the center line of Tomstown Road in Quincy Township, Pa., and struck a car driven by Angalena’s friend, Chelsey Nichols.
“No sentence can bring Angalena back or erase the awful memories Chelsey has of the crash,” Stacey Nichols, the driver’s mother, said during the hearing.
She criticized what she called Bonebrake’s “selfish choices.”
Bonebrake addressed Angalena’s mother in court and asked to hug her, but was denied by court staff.
“I do show more remorse than I’m given credit for. ... There’s not one day that goes by that I don’t say, ‘God, why didn’t you take me and leave her?’” Bonebrake said.
Bonebrake requested to be placed in a minimum-security prison in northwestern Pennsylvania. Walsh said that is the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ decision to make, but he would recommend the placement be at Cambridge Springs State Correctional Institution as she asked.
Bonebrake waved to her family and friends — and quietly said, “I love you” — as sheriff’s deputies took her from the courtroom.