George Kiaha, a 25 year old Garrison resident, was sentenced this week to the maximum 2 1/3 to 7 year jail sentence for the September 4, 2009 fatal DWI that resulted in the death of 55 year old Ralph Wood and injured five members of his family. The D.A.’s office claimed that Mr. Kiaha had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.11 when the vehicle he was operating in Cortlandt Manor crossed a double yellow line and struck head-on the car in which Mr. Wood was a passenger. All the occupants of both vehicles were hospitalized. Mr. Wood apparently suffered a ruptured spleen in the crash, went into cardiac arrest and died.
Mr. Kiaha was convicted by a Westchester County jury of all counts against him, including vehicular assault (the top count), criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving and five misdemeanor counts of assault for each of the occupants of the other vehicle in the crash. He was sentenced by Judge Barbara Zambelli to the severest sentence possible for vehicular manslaughter. Mr. Kiaha’s defense attorney argued to the jury that poor police work and mishandled evidence created doubt as to the blood alcohol findings taken at the hospital, but the jury did not accept that contention.
The attorney had asked the Court to sentence Mr. Kiaha to what is known as shock probation, which involves some jail time and then five years probation, but Judge Zambelli rejected that request. It is not yet clear if Mr. Kiaha will appeal his conviction. Certainly, the severity of Mr. Kiaha’s sentence was affected in part by the obvious tragic circumstances of the accident, and in addition, the fatal accident on the Taconic in 2009 and the effects of Leandra’s Law, which became fully effective this past August.
Contact the Westchester County Criminal Defense Attorneys at The Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at (914) 428-7386 if you or a loved one are charged with a DWI or other crime for a free consultation with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.