Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Staying clean

Posted May 27, 2009

This week a twenty year old man who admitted to killing someone in a drunk driving crash in 2007 butted heads with the law again.

Compared to the crime he took responsibility for in August of 2007, killing Wakefield High School student Sadiki Young, the newest allegations, stealing beer from a local grocery store, are minor.  But taken in the context of the bigger picture, they could have serious consequences.

The driver of the car in which Young was riding when he was killed, Chris Palmeri, received a suspended sentence of  sixteen to twenty months for the involuntary manslaughter charge.  He spent five months in jail and was put on probation for five years.  That probationary period started in January of 2008.  So, despite e-mails from people saying "he's served his time," he still has more than three years left on his probation.  The guidelines of any probation require the defendant to stay away from drugs and alcohol and not get into trouble with the law again.

Palmeri's culpability in the larceny Tuesday will be weighed by the prosecutor in criminal court, but in a separate proceeding,  a judge will decide whether or not to revoke his probation and send him back to prison for the balance of his original sentence. 

When Palmeri was sentenced in connection with the crash that killed Young, he promised the judge if given the opportunity, he would try to use his experience to teach other young people about the dangers of drinking and driving.  His words rang hollow for the victim's mother, Dr. Rosemarie Newman.  While she was hopeful that Palmeri meant what he said and would stay clean, she was not optimistic.  Newman believes in second chances, but not in third, fourth and fifth chances if a young person doesn't show any real desire to change.

The bottom line is that Palmeri got a deal when he spent just five months behind bars for taking away Young from his family.  These new charges could put that deal in jeopardy.  Or, he could get a third chance.  Hopefully if he does, he will use it wisely.

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WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.