EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2013

Judge: 'You killed her just as if you shot her with a pistol'

Haverhill man given 3 1/2-year sentence for drunk driving fatal in front of State Police barracks

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — SALEM, Mass. - Computer company executive Robert V. Bryant was led from Superior Court in handcuffs yesterday to begin a 3 1/2-year sentence for a daytime drunken driving accident in which a 30-year-old woman was struck and killed.

Bryant, 52, of of 93 Lincolnshire Drive, Haverhill, was driving a Chevy Silverado pickup when he ran into Cynthia Anne Ray, also of Haverhill, in front of the Andover State Police barracks at 3 p.m. Dec. 12, 2010.

“I do want to say I am deeply remorseful and sorry ... I accept full responsibility for what happened,” Bryant said before he was sentenced under a plea bargain agreement.

“I assure you this has affected me deeply and tremendously ... I will carry this with me everyday,” said Bryant before he was handcuffed and taken to Middleton Jail.

It was tragic day for two families, including Ray’s husband Brian, who sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Ray was killed after she went to the barracks to pick up an accident report for her husband who was in an accident earlier that day. She parked her Toyota Highlander in the barracks’ front entrance U-shaped driveway on Route 125. Ray’s mother Katherine Balesteri was sitting in the passenger’s seat of the Highlander when she was struck. Balesteri ran into the barracks to get help - not immediately knowing her daughter was struck.

The impact threw Ray 61 feet onto the front lawn of the barracks. She was pronounced dead at Lawrence General Hospital.

After hitting Ray, Bryant continued driving another 100 yards before he was arrested by Trooper Edward Troy.

Yesterday, just two weeks before his scheduled trial date, Bryant pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while drunken driving and attempting to commit a crime, leaving the scene of an accident. As part of the plea deal, Bryant was not prosecuted for manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident, for which he had been indicted.

Bryant had been free on $10,000 bail since his arrest.

Bryant is a computer executive for a Philadelphia-based company. He has four children.

Bryant told Troy he had several beers before the crash. “Did I hit somebody? A pedestrian? I don’t remember doing that,” Bryant asked Troy.

“Off the record, I (expletive) up,” Bryant said to Troy, a statement his defense team would unsuccessfully try to have suppressed.

Bryant faced 15 years in jail on the vehicular manslaughter charge. On a deal reached between the defense and prosecutors, and approved by Judge John Lu, Bryant will spend 3 1/2 years in jail. He’s also subjected to an 18-month suspended sentence for five years, during which he’s barred from drinking alcohol. By pleading guilty to vehicular homicide, Bryant faces up to a 15-year loss of his driver’s license.

“You killed her just as if you shot her with a pistol,” Judge Lu said to Bryant, adding “this is the incredible price of drunk driving.”

In emotional impact statements, Ray’s mother and sister both spoke of the loss of Cynthia on that overcast Sunday afternoon 26 months ago.

Ray’s mother, Katherine Balesteri, described “standing by helplessly” on Route 125 in Andover that horrific day as he daughter lay dying and she couldn’t do anything for her.

“What example have you shown your children?” she asked Bryant. She wrote her impact statement with Ray’s husband Brian, who said next to her on the witness stand as she addressed Liu yesterday.

She noted Bryant’s children get to enjoy their siblings while Cynthia’s sister Melanie is left alone. She also looked back on the past two years, as Bryant awaited trial, where the family was tortured as the case made it’s way through the judicial system.

“All you needed to do is be accountable for your actions,” she said, adding “no sentence will ever be enough for my baby girl.”

Melanie Balesteri also addressed Lu, saying while as she was wrapping her sister’s Christmas present on Dec. 12, 2010, “Cindy was dying on the road because someone had to drink and drive.” Christmas was her sister’s favorite holiday, she said.

“I love and miss you,” Melanie said of her sister.

Fellow relative David Briggs spoke of Ray’s “brutal death” and then for more than two years having to watch Bryant come to court and then leave and go home with his family. He accused Bryant of showing “no remorse” for his actions and trying “every possible” legal maneuver to beat the charges.

Prosecutor Michael Patten described the case “one of the worst” he’s handled in his career.

“There are some very decent people in this courtroom on both sides of the aisle,” Patten told Lu.

Bryant was defended by attorneys Randy Chapman and Charles Rankin.

Ray’s family is pursuing separate civil action against Bryant.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.