Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that Richard Chesler, 19, of Millburn was sentenced to four years in state prison for killing a South Orange man while driving under the influence of alcohol.
In June Chesler pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and drunk driving in the Jan. 27, 2009 death of Ari Vuotila, 39, of South Orange. Today, the Honorable Harold Fullilove, J.S.C., imposed a four-year sentence on Chesler.
The state will appeal the sentence, according to Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly, who had recommended a seven-year sentence, the mid-range for someone who admits guilt for a second degree offense. Judge Fullilove concluded the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating and sentenced Chesler as if he had been found guilty of a third degree offense.
“Despite the defendants age and lack of criminal record, we think a seven-year sentence is more appropriate given the loss of life and the severity of the crime,’’ said Fennelly. “This is a young man who got behind the wheel of a car at 5:45 in the evening after consuming six or seven beers, blew through a stop sign at an excessive speed, and plowed into an innocent man.’’
Chesler admitted drinking six or seven beers before getting into his Jeep Grand Cherokee, running a stop sign and hitting the Nissan driven by Vuotila. At the time of the collision Chesler was driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone.
If Chesler had gone to trial and been convicted on the original charge of first degree aggravated manslaughter, he would have faced 30 years in prison.
“This is a situation where there are no winners. Ari’s mothers loss her only son and Chesler’s life will be forever altered because of a series of very bad decisions he made that day. Hopefully, other young people will look at this case and recognize the perils of drinking and driving,’’ Fennelly said.