Patrick Doyle, the man who fatally struck and killed a Brick teenager on a skateboard in 2011, will spend the next six months in jail and lose his license for 10 years, a judge ruled Thursday night.
Doyle, 55, pleaded guilty to a single count of driving while intoxicated in front of Municipal Court Judge Daniel Sahin in Brick Township municipal court. It is his third DWI conviction.
In a May 11, 2011 accident, Doyle struck 19-year-old Anthony Briffa, of Brick, with his car, killing him. Briffa was riding his skateboard at the time.
Doyle's attorney, William Cunningham, told Sahin that his client's blood alcohol level was found to be .081, barely over the legal limit at the time of the accident.
Doyle admitted to Sahin that he had consumed four beers and two shots of whiskey the night of the accident.
The county prosecutor's office brought a vehicular homicide case against Doyle to a grand jury, however the grand jury remanded the case back to municipal court, meaning only the motor vehicle charge of driving while intoxicated would apply, rather than criminal charges.
Thursday's sentencing hearing became an emotionally-charged affair for both the Briffa family, who was present in court, as well as for Doyle.
"These mere words cannot express the extreme sorrow, remorse and apologies that I am expressing to you," said Doyle, adding that he has dedicated his life to young people as a coach and volunteer with special needs children.
Doyle's hands visibly shook as he began to tear up while reading a prepared statement to the Briffas.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I never meant to hurt your son," he said. "If I could've changed places with Anthony that night I would've done it. If I had to avoid that driver, swerve and hit a tree and lost my life, I would have done so."
Doyle said he is in counseling, prays every day and attends church at St. Dominic's.
Briffa's family also attends St. Dominic's where the teen served as a eucharistic minister before he died.
Toni Briffa, Anthony's mother, addressed the court briefly.
"I will live with the pain forever, as will my husband, my daughter and my son," she said, adding that Doyle "chose to drink and chose to drive" that night.
An emotional Maria Briffa, Anthony's older sister, gave a lengthy and tearful address.
"I lost my brother, but I also lost part of my parents," she said. "I wake up every day and I see the pain in their eyes, and they're just not them anymore. Holidays are so awkward now."
"I would come home from school, we would have our time, and it just meant the world to me," Maria Briffa recalled. "It's hard to care about work, it's hard to care about school, because he's always on my mind."
"I'm so, so sorry for your loss, and nothing I can do here can address that today," said Sahin, before imposing his sentence. "There is no way I could possibly do anything to make your lives any different at this point in time."
Sahin did, however, grant a defense motion for what is known as a "civil reservation" in the case, which blocks the guilty plea from being used in future civil proceedings.
Jacqueline DeCarlo, an attorney from the firm of Hobbie, Corrigan and Bertucio of Eatontown, representing the Briffa family, opposed the measure.
"The defendant was a drunk driver who was under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, and as a result, someone is dead," argued DeCarlo. "How he wasn't indicted, I don't know, but he wasn't. And he's now in municipal court. It would be a travesty to have a civil reservation in this case."
Sahin said his ruling granting the civil reservation was because of the "borderline" blood alcohol level, as well as a lack of evidence that Doyle was speeding at the time of the accident.
"The .08 reading that was involved in this case is a borderline reading, and it's a reading most experienced DWI lawyers would take to trial," said Sahin.
Cunningham had argued that the blood alcohol reading could have been disputed.
"This by no means compromises your civil rights, and I think you're going to find that," said Sahin, addressing the Briffa family.
Doyle will begin serving his sentence immediately at the Ocean County Jail. He was taken out of the courtroom by a police officer.