Woman enters plea in Pittsfield native's highway death
NORTHAMPTON (AP) -- A woman who police say was drunk when she drove the wrong way on a Hadley highway and caused a crash that killed a University of Massachusetts student from Pittsfield says in court that she had no recollection of the event.
Brittini Benton, of Sunderland, changed her plea Monday in Hampshire Superior Court. She acknowledged that the state has enough evidence to convict her in the April 2012 death of Daniel Haley, 24, and entered a plea under the Alford doctrine. She previously pleaded not guilty.
Haley graduated in 2006 from Pittsfield High School and earned an associate degree at Berkshire Community College before going to UMass.
Benton's plea was on charges of negligent motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence, operating under the influence with negligence and serious bodily injury, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Four charges were dropped, including a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutor Jayme Parent said in her experience Alford pleas are rare in Massachusetts and usually reserved for cases where a defendant has no memory of the alleged offenses. Medical records supported Benton's claims, Parent said.
"The choice that the defendant made in the early morning hours of April 14, 2012, to get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence took the life of a promising young man and forever altered the life of another," Parent said.
The 25-year-old Benton is scheduled to be sentenced June 27. She was released on personal recognizance and ordered not to drive and to remain drug and alcohol free. The prosecution and defense agreed on a recommended sentence of five to seven years in prison and five years of probation.
Her attorney said Benton is pregnant and didn't want to begin serving her sentence until after she delivers in July.
Benton was driving south in the northbound lanes of Route 116 and her blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit to drive, prosecutors said.
In addition to killing Haley, who was riding a motorcycle, she struck another vehicle, injuring Jon Weeks, 58, of Leyden.