Drunk Driver Whose Accident Led to Leandra's Law Gets 4 to 12 Years

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Leandra Rosado

    A mother will spend four to 12 years in prison for drunkenly driving a station wagon full of children and crashing on a Manhattan highway, killing one of them, as they headed to a slumber party.

    Carmen Huertas tearfully apologized, and spectators audibly wept, as she was sentenced Friday.

    The crash last October on the Henry Hudson Parkway killed 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. Her still-devastated family came to court wearing T-shirts and pins bearing her smiling picture.

    "What haunts me the most is I promised to protect my daughter. And I feel like I failed her," Lenny Rosado told the court.

    He was a single father, raising an only child. He said his loss has made him question his faith. He has no reason to rush home any more, no reason to look forward to holidays.

    Rosado can't stop thinking about the night of Leandra's death. He wonders: "Did she scream out, 'Help me, Daddy!'" as the car went airborne?

    Huertas pleaded guilty to manslaughter, drunken driving and other charges on Aug. 10, days before a state law inspired by the case took full effect.

    Leandra's Law, officially known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, makes drunken driving a felony if a child is in the car.

    Huertas got behind the wheel with her 11-year-old daughter and six of her daughter's friends after downing cognac at a family party.

    A breath test taken at the scene showed Huertas had a blood-alcohol level above 0.13 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

    She got so drunk that other guests told her not to drive and her toddler son's father yanked the boy out of her car, prosecutors said.

    She took off anyway, heading for the Bronx, ignoring the children's pleas to slow down and taunting them to raise their hands if they thought they would crash, according to prosecutors.

    When they did, the car flew off the Henry Hudson Parkway with such force that pieces of it stuck in trees along the roadway. Leandra died within minutes. The other children suffered a variety of injuries; Yiselle Rosario walks with a cane after 11 surgeries.

    Huertas' family and lawyer said the 31-year-old mother of three and sometime cosmetics saleswoman wasn't the callous woman authorities have painted her to be. She was on suicide watch for nearly two weeks after the wreck.

    "I am not a monster," Huertas, dabbing her eyes with a tissue, said at her sentencing. "I am a loving mother who made a terrible decision that caused the death of a wonderful child."