Long Island event planner Lauren Pazienza was sentenced to an 8 1/2-year prison term after pleading guilty to the death of veteran Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern.
In an admission on Wednesday, Pazienza confessed to the unprovoked attack that claimed the life of the 87-year-old vocal coach. The sentence follows the terms of a negotiated plea deal, reported the New York Post.
At age 27, Pazienza was initially confronted with the possibility of spending a quarter-century behind bars, being charged with manslaughter and assault offenses.
Prosecutors did not explain their acceptance of the eight-year sentence, especially in light of Pazienza's earlier rejection of a deal in July that had stipulated a 15-year prison term.
Pazienza's fatal shove occurred during an inebriated rampage on March 10, 2022, while celebrating her impending wedding with her fiancé on West 28th Street, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. The 5-foot-7 Pazienza's encounter with the 4-foot-11 Gustern was triggered by her anger over a Parks Department worker ejecting her and her partner from Chelsea Park, where they had been dining, due to the park's closing hours, the report said.
After the assault, Pazienza returned to her Astoria residence via the subway, revealing her actions to her fiancé hours later. Upon learning of the vocal coach's death through news reports and identifying herself in police-released surveillance images, Pazienza deleted her social media profiles, dismantled her wedding website, and sought refuge with her family on Long Island, as detailed by the district attorney's office.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office confirmed that Pazienza agreed to a plea deal that includes an eight-year prison sentence, to be followed by five years of post-release supervision.
Commenting on the sentence, Gustern's grandson A.J. Maier Gustern said: "Lauren, you're extremely lucky. I hope you learn some empathy because apparently you're incapable of empathy."
"Notice how she didn't go after some 6-foot-tall, 200-pound guy; she went after my 80-pound grandmother," the grandson said.
"I have little to no forgiveness or sympathy for Lauren or her family," he added. "This is what happens when you don't raise a child right, and you let them get away with whatever they want their entire lives."
Pazienza's attorney, Arthur Aidala, contends that she was heavily intoxicated with a combination of wine, marijuana, and prescription drugs to the extent that she could not have been aware of her actions or possessed the necessary "intent" to support a manslaughter charge.
Pazienza's sentencing is set for Sept. 29.
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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