By Patrick Markey
The Derry-born ambulance driver charged with vehicular manslaughter for killing three children in a fatal crash in Brooklyn last year accepted a prosecution offer last week to plead guilty to a lesser offense and stay out of prison.
After a brief conference Friday with her attorney, Anne Lamberson tearfully told Judge Michael Gary that she would plead guilty to the lower charge of criminally negligent homicide and accept a sentence of five years’ probation.
"It has just been horrible for the two families and I hope from this day forward there will be peace for the two families," she told the court at times struggling to control her sobbing.
Lamberson was arrested and had faced a second-degree manslaughter charge after the private ambulance she was driving slammed into the family car of Angela Igwe at an intersection in October 1998.
Three of Igwe’s children — Damilola Morak, 7, Olusegun Morak, 5 and 2-year-old Akintunde Morak — were killed in the collision.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Although the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office offered Lamberson a plea bargain, until this week her attorney, Michael Dowd, appeared set to go to trial. If a jury had found her guilty, prosecutors said they would have pushed for a prison term.
On Friday, both Lamberson and her lawyer said the decision to accept the plea had been prompted by concern for her daughter, Kathy, and a desire for closure.
"It was the best option. Everyone has suffered for a year. It is time for peace. It is the only way for peace to come and for me to make sure my daughter is always by me," Lamberson said outside the courtroom.
Both the district attorney and Dowd said they will apply after a year to have the rest of Lamberson’s probation dismissed if she has no violations. Judge Gary told Lamberson that it was evident she felt deep sorrow for the deaths.
"We all know this was not an intentional crime. It was a tragedy," he said.
While the criminal end of business is now over except for the formal sentencing, Lamberson still faces a civil lawsuit. The Igwe family have hired former O.J. Simpson lawyer Peter Neufeld to deal with their legal matters.
"There will be a civil lawsuit pursued against the driver and, more importantly, against her employer," Neufeld said. He refused to discuss the details of the suit.
Lamberson was born in Derry but her parents emigrated from the Bogside in the early 1960s. Her case had attracted attention and support in Northern Ireland after Nobel Prize winner John Hume voiced concern over the serious charges leveled against her.