By John Burton |
MIDDLETOWN — When Toni Marletta enters a Monmouth County courtroom next month for a resentencing hearing for the motor vehicle hit-and-run death of an Atlantic Highlands teenage girl, the victim’s mother vows to be there to express her objections to any shortening of the prison sentence.
“I absolutely plan on talking and talking and talking and talking, until I can’t talk anymore,” said Danielle Procopio, whose 16-year-old daughter Marissa Procopio was killed in a July 2015 collision with Marletta’s vehicle while crossing Route 36. She says she’ll talk as long as the presiding Superior Court judge permits it.
Procopio has been recruiting family and friends via Facebook and elsewhere to attend Marletta’s hearing at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 in Judge Vincent Falcetano’s court. She is seeking to have Marletta serve the entirety of her seven-year sentence.
Marletta has served nearly one year of her sentence.
“There’s no way I’m leaving the courtroom without her getting her seven years again,” Procopio said.
A two-judge panel for the state’s Appellate Division determined in an Oct. 25 decision that Marletta’s sentence has been vacated and remanded it to the trial court. The Appellate Court, in a less than one-page document, ruled the trial judge is to make his decision “without consideration of aggravating factor #3 and with consideration of mitigating factors #8 and #9.”
The brief court document doesn’t specify what those factors are and according to the Administrative Office of the Courts in Trenton, the file is sealed. MaryAnn Spoto, communications manager of the Administrative Offices on New Jersey Courts, said because this was a sentencing hearing heard on a special calendar, the court generally issues a disposition order, as opposed to a formal opinion.
Procopio was made aware of the court’s ruling when contacted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Meghan Doyle, who prosecuted the case. Procopio said Doyle told her “there were some technicalities that needed to be put on the record,” requiring the court hearing.
Phone call and email messages to the prosecutor’s office this week were not returned by press time on Wednesday afternoon.
Last Dec. 2, Judge Ronald L. Reisner, who has since retired from the bench in Freehold, sentenced Marletta to seven years in prison for her guilty plea a few months earlier to knowingly leaving the scene of an accident in the second degree; four years for endangering the welfare of a minor; and a six-month prison term and one-year loss of her driver’s license for failure to have auto insurance. The sentences were to be served concurrently, according to Reisner.
Marletta, who was living in the township’s Leonardo section at the time, was traveling along Route 36 in Leonardo, returning from a local supermarket with her 16-year-old daughter and two of her daughter’s friends in the car at approximately 8:24 p.m. on July 7, 2015. Marletta’s vehicle struck Marissa Procopio as Procopio was crossing the highway at the Avenue D intersection, on her way home.
Marletta fled the scene, contacting police later that evening after having been confronted by the parents of her daughter’s friends, the prosecutor said at Marletta’s initial sentencing hearing. Marletta’s attorney at the time, Peter O’Mara, said his client had panicked because she had recently let her car insurance lapse.
Procopio continues to put forth the unsubstantiated allegations that Marletta was under the influence of alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs at the time of the collision but the time lapse made it impossible to verify what was in her blood system at the time of the collision. Marletta was not charged with driving under the influence. O’Mara said in court that Marletta had had wine at home to calm herself following the incident.
“She was rewarded by leaving the scene,” Procopio charged, “making it impossible to pinpoint the exact time she ingested these substances.”
O’Mara is no longer representing Marletta. She is now being represented by the Public Defenders’ Office in Trenton, but a call to the office on Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Procopio said she’s collected about 5,000 signatures and comments on a petition she plans to submit during the court hearing and offer other letters in support of continuing Marletta’s full incarceration.
Procopio accused Marletta of taking what could have been another 70-plus years of her daughter’s life. “And she thinks she’s entitled to her life back?” Procopio asked, referring to Marletta. “I think that’s absurd.”
Procopio has won a $430,000 civil claim against Marletta, which Procopio said she hasn’t collected on and in any case, would offer no comfort for the loss of her daughter.
This article was first published in the Nov. 30-Dec. 7, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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