Drunk driver who killed woman gets 15 days

Relatives of Florence Cioffi protested last week when the drunk driver who killed her received only 15 days in jail.

George Anderson was speeding in his Mercedes SUV when he plowed into Cioffi, 59, as she crossed Water St. near Hanover Sq. on the evening of Jan. 24, 2008. Police initially charged Anderson with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

But a bargain with the district attorney allowed Anderson to plead guilty only to two misdemeanors: a D.W.I. and leaving the scene of an accident.

“This is a rich man’s sentence,” Lilly Alias, Cioffe’s sister, said in a statement that she read in court Friday. “Do not let this court become complicit in arranging for less than a slap on the wrist for a very wealthy individual while my family suffers and my sister lies in her grave.”

Part of the reason the prosecutor reduced the charges is that Cioffi, too, had been drinking. She had a blood alcohol level of .22, well above the legal limit, and stepped into the street 44 feet from the crosswalk, said Murray Richman, Anderson’s attorney. Prosecutors also said they did not have the evidence to prove manslaughter, according to press reports.

Alias said it was “completely irrelevant” whether her sister had been drinking, and the fault still lay with Anderson, who drove away after the accident and returned 20 minutes later.

During last Friday’s sentencing, Anderson, C.E.O. of Enterprise Engineering in Lower Manhattan, broke down as he described his remorse, Richman said. Anderson could not finish reading the statement he had prepared.

“My client is devastated,” Richman said.

Anderson, of Long Island, is currently serving his 15 days in jail and will also do 200 hours of community service and surrender his license for six months, according to press reports.

“What message does it send?” asked Jerry Misk, a lawyer representing Cioffi’s family, in a phone interview. “As long as you’re wealthy enough…you can get off with killing someone and serving 15 days jail.”

— Julie Shapiro