Driver gets 7 to 15 years in prison in deaths
UTICA — Two grieving families filled an Oneida County courtroom Wednesday morning to condemn the reckless actions of 24-year-old Rakwan D. Marshall, whose high speed crash on Route 12 in Boonville killed two people and severely injured a third.
Marshall, of Liverpool, Onondaga County, was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum of seven to 15 years in state prison for the deaths of 42-year-old Cary A. Croniser and 19-year-old Yairis Brito. Marshall apologized for his actions and took responsibility, though Judge Robert L. Bauer chastised that there was no emotion or empathy in his words.
“You learned nothing from this. It’s apparent you learned absolutely nothing from this experience,” Judge Bauer told Marshall ahead of the sentencing. “You need to live with this. You need to feel. You need some empathy. I don’t see that in you. I can’t read your mind. You might just be a person who shows less emotion.”
Prosecutors said Marshall was speeding at more than 100 mph and weaving in and out of traffic on Route 12 in Boonville at about 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12, 2020. Authorities said the southbound Marshall veered into the northbound lane to pass another vehicle, only for his 2020 Mercedes to crash head-on into an oncoming 2010 Chrysler Sebring, driven by Sarah J. Stinebrickner, of Boonville.
Croniser was a passenger in Stinebrickner’s car — as well as her sister — and Croniser was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Brito, a passenger in Marshall’s vehicle, died several days later in a hospital. Stinebrickner was in a coma for several days and suffered extensive, permanent injuries.
Marshall took his case to trial and was convicted by a jury on May 9 on two counts of second-degree manslaughter, one count of second-degree assault and three violations for speeding, unreasonable speed and failure to maintain lane.
Sarah J. Stinebrickner spent several days in a coma following the crash. She wore a neck brace to court on Wednesday, and walked slowly with the help of a cane. She gave a statement in court, which had to be read by Assistant District Attorney Rebecca G. Kelleher because of Stinebrickner’s injuries. She said she lost the use of her right hand and arm, and had to relearn how to walk and take care of herself following the crash.
“From the very moment I woke from my coma, my life has been filled with chronic pain and anguish,” Stinebrickner said in her statement.
“The physical pain was and continues to be what you can only imagine living in hell. Yet it still has no comparison to the emotional agony that consumes me every single moment of every single day.”
She spoke about her sister, Croniser, as her best friend, and an “incredible mom” to three children of her own.
“Her smile was so contangious, you couldn’t help but to love her. Cary was not only a breath of fresh air and sunshine, she was beautiful and her eyes twinkled like a star; her laugh could make you smile on the worst of days,” Stinebrickner said.
She also made it a point to tell Marshall the names of Croniser’s three children.
“Anytime you happen to hear these three names in the future, I hope they burn a hole in your skull,” she told Marshall.
Two of Yairis Brito’s cousins spoke at the sentencing, and their words brought the family in the courtroom to tears.
Brito was “a beautiful princess, full of joy and happiness” who wanted to go to college to become “the best teacher ever,” said Ninamarie Dejesus. “She was the light of the family. She will never become the teacher, mother or wife she deserved to be.”
Dejesus said that Brito told the family that “nothing hurt her more” than watching Marshall leave the hospital after his treatment, while she remained laid up and in pain.
“Why did you make those selfish, stupid mistakes? How can you sleep at night knowing everyone from this senseless act is suffering?” Dejesus asked Marshall. “I forgive you for your selfish mistakes, but I will never forget you.”
Jazmarie Lucas, another cousin, begged Judge Bauer to give Marshall the maximum sentence.
“Your reckless acts have left this family with never-ending pain,” Lucas told Marshall.
“I will never forgive you, and I could never forget. I pray the day you are released from prison, you never get behind the wheel again.”
When it was his turn to speak, Marshall spoke briefly and plainly. He apologized to both families for his actions.
“I’m deeply remorseful. If I could go back in time to change things, I would. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works,” Marshall stated. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Marshall’s defense attorney, Krystal Harrington, described to Judge Bauer how Marshall spent several years in foster care as a child, after his father’s death. She spoke about how Marshall joined the Army National Guard after graduating high school, and served even up to his trial. She said Marshall’s fiancee is 9-months pregnant with their first child.
“Rakwan was a 22-year-old boy doing what 22-year-old boys do. He made a bad decision. He chose to pass at a high rate of speed. No one disputes that.”
Harrington insisted that there were other factors on the road that night that contributed to the crash, along with Marshall.
After Marshall and his defense attorney spoke, Judge Bauer agreed that Marshall had seemed poised to live a good life, but his actions leading up to the crash and in the years since “shock the conscience as so selfish.”
Bauer said he was especially troubled by the fact that Marshall continued driving after the crash, even though he’d been court-ordered to stop.
The judge pointed out that not only did Marshall drive without a license after the crash, but he also racked up two speeding tickets in the time since — for speeds of 75 mph and 91 mph. Bauer also said that others claimed Marshall had driven himself to court during his trial.
“I struggle to wrap my head around that someone would have the gall to do that,” Bauer told Marshall.
After the admonishment, Bauer sentenced Marshall to the maximum of seven to 15 years in state prison on two counts of manslaughter and one count of assault, with several hundreds of dollars in fines. Bauer said he was disappointed that the law required him to sentence each charge concurrently for the one incident, despite the three different victims.
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