Yates County holds DWI Victim Impact Panel

Yates County Sheriff's Office

PENN YAN – The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel (VIP) at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the County Office Building auditorium. Covid-19 pandemic safety measures with social spacing guidelines and masking were required.

Sheriff Ron Spike, who chairs the Task Force VIP, said, “Our mission is assist our courts in the mandate for driving under the influence by alcohol or drugs offenders to understand the human factor of victimization that impaired driving can cause others by making a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs, and then drive a motor vehicle.” The county and all town and village courts, as a part of the disposition of a DWI related case, order the attending of a VIP.

Thirty-three court-ordered offenders attended along with several guests. All offenders appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breath testing by sheriff’s deputies, court security, and Penn Yan police officers before the panel commenced. Yates County Probation officers were also present for registration and assistance including Director Sharon Dawes at reception. Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham issued the rules for the session. The STOP program's VIP Coordinator Linda Wright organized the event. CSO Eric Burden operated the audiovisual presentation.

Sheriff Spike served as emcee and made opening remarks that emphasized awareness that the legalization of marihuana does not make it legal to drive drugged or stoned. Driving while one’s ability is impaired by marihuana or drugs remains illegal in New York. State. Additional remarks were from Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella, who spoke on bad choices and legal consequences while creating crime victims.

Marianne Angelillo, of Skaneateles, holds a photo of her son, Matthew, who died in a drunk driving accident at the end of his junior year in high school 2004. Angelillo tells the family's story in her book “Sharing My Stones” out now.

The evening’s panel speaker was Marianne Angelillo, the married mother of four children from Skaneateles. She presented a heart-breaking story she called “Sharing My Stones,” as she lost her 17-year-old-son, Matthew, who was a passenger in a tragic DWI-speeding car crash in 2004. Since then, she has turned her grief into a campaign of awareness for parents and teens in a courageous effort to prevent similar tragedies. She is recognized by the New York State Governors Traffic Safety Committee, and has been the recipient of the STOP-DWI Community Involvement Award.

“Marianne’s family victimization is very compelling," Spike said, "and that those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family was forever impacted by someone not thinking and driving drunk.”

The attendees completed an evaluation form and received a certificate of attendance for their submission to the courts for verification of attendance. The event lasted about 70 minutes. Sheriff Spike thanked the members of the county task force.

“If we make good choices instead of bad ones, the consequences won’t be deadly,” said VIP Coordinator Linda Wright.