The New York Daily News by JOSE MARTINEZ - February 27, 2009
A drunk-driving millionaire who mowed down a woman in Manhattan and then fled the death scene received his punishment Friday. A measly 15 days in jail. Outraged relatives of victim Florence Cioffi railed against the plea bargain and "rich man's sentence" for technology entrepreneur George Anderson. "When the district attorney starts sounding like a defense attorney to justify the deal, you can be sure the deal is a bad one for my sister and the people of this state," Cioffi's sister, Lilly Alias, complained to the judge.
Manhattan prosecutors originally charged Anderson with vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, but he was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor DWI and leaving the scene of an accident. Cioffi, 59, was killed Jan. 24, 2008, when she was slammed by a Mercedes SUV driven by Anderson, who had been boozing at a Rangers hockey game. The Long Island executive drove away from the Water St. scene, then returned 20 minutes later. Prosecutor David Hammer said Anderson was clearly drunk, though his level of intoxication was not checked until hours after he struck Cioffi. "While we never expected a death sentence or an extraordinarily long prison term, a plea arrangement which amounts to nothing more than 15 days in jail is simply insufficient," Alias said. Hammer said stiffer charges wouldn't have stuck. "We cannot prove vehicular homicide. We cannot prove criminally negligent homicide," he said. "I understand the family members are upset. I don't blame them." He added that the victim was also very drunk. Cioffi's .22 blood-alcohol level - nearly three times the legal limit - made proving the charges that much tougher for prosecutors. The bride-to-be had been returning home after planning her 60th birthday party with friends. "This was an absolute tragedy. Ms. Cioffi is not to blame here," Hammer said. "As a district attorney, I have to look at what I can prove." Alias stood next to the prosecutor at the sentencing, then lashed out at the deal given to Anderson. "This is a rich man's sentence," she snapped.