Woman accepts responsibility for boy’s death as part of settlement

08/09/2012 2:00 PM |

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Dorothy Marino speaks to reporters outside the Riverhead Supreme courtroom after the lawsuit against Caroline Goss for the death of her son was settled.

Caroline Goss began to sob in court as she apologized over and over to the family of the Hampton Bays boy she killed in a 2009 drunk driving accident.

“I am 100 percent responsible for causing the death of your son,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

Ms. Goss took the stand at the Riverhead Supreme Court building Thursday morning and took responsibility for the death of 15-year-old Joseph Marino, who was struck while riding a bike in Hampton Bays, as part of a settlement in a civil suit filed against her by the Marino family.

Officials said Ms. Goss, who lives in Mattituck, was driving with her 6-year-old son in the car and had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when she struck Joseph as he was stopped in the roadway the night of Aug. 12, 2009.

Ms. Goss pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to six months in prison and five years of probation because it would have been difficult to secure a conviction, officials said.

The Mattituck woman served four months of her sentence before being released. She was sued in civil court by the Marino family for damages in 2010.

When asked whether her decision to drive drunk caused Joseph’s death, Ms. Goss tearfully replied “yes.”

“I promise you I would have never gotten behind the wheel …  had I known,” she told the family. “I wish I could do it over.”

Dorothy Marino, Joseph’s mother, began to cry as Ms. Goss apologized for the prom Joseph never went to, or the road test he’ll never take.

Ms. Goss said she will tell others of the dangers of drunk driving.

“It’s not worth it,” she said quietly as she tried to compose herself. “People just don’t think it could happen to them. But it does.”

As part of the settlement, Ms. Goss also agreed to pay $300 a month to the Marino family for the next 20 years, a figure based on what she could reasonably afford to pay, attorneys said.

After court ended, Ms. Marino hugged her attorney and her husband outside the courtroom and cried. Ms. Goss was whisked out of the courthouse, comforted by family and friends.

“There are no winners here,” said Ms. Marino’s lawyer, Edmond Chakmakian. “This is one small step in getting closure in this matter.”

Ms. Marino, who wore a locket with a photo of Joseph from his eighth grade graduation, said hearing Ms. Goss say the accident was her fault in court was “the only reason we did this.”

“It’s what I needed to hear,” Ms. Marino said. “She had to say those words …  Every time she writes my name on that check, she’s going remember she’s writing it because she killed my son.”

Drunk driving is a serious crime that can affect anyone, she said, adding that sentencing in criminal courts will never be the same as the pain drunk drivers cause.

“Every time a drunk driver gets behind that wheel, and they injure or they kill somebody, they’ve killed somebody’s child, somebody’s loved one,” she said. “And they just don’t realize the devastation that they’re causing, because it’s a lifetime of pain and suffering.”

Ms. Marino said she doesn’t think she will ever forgive Ms. Goss for what happened.

“I don’t think there is any forgiveness in this,” she said. “There’s more anger than anything else.”

psquire@timesreview.com