Fort Plain woman convicted in biker’s death loses appeal
Updated 10:01 p.m.
ALBANY A Fort Plain mother of three lost an appeal Thursday and will finish out her six-to-18-year prison term for crashing into two motorcyclists, killing one of them.
On July 25, 2010, Sybil Monk was driving westbound along Route 5 in Palatine when she veered into the opposing lane and plowed head-on into two motorcyclists, injuring 48-year-old Douglas Estelle and killing 66-year-old Bruce Gilmore.
An investigation at the time revealed that Monk was driving under the influence of narcotics. Monk was prescribed the narcotics following back surgery, but their presence in her system led to an eight-count indictment.
In January 2011, she pleaded guilty before Montgomery County Court Judge Felix Catena to aggravated vehicular homicide. A few months later, he sentenced her to six to 18 years in prison.
During her plea, Monk waived the right to an appeal, but she was able to appeal anyway. Montgomery County District Attorney Jed Conboy, who prosecuted the case, explained the loophole: A person can appeal a guilty plea and conviction even if they waived that right if they were somehow confused while making the original plea.
Monk appealed her sentence on the grounds that she was not aware of what she was doing when she pleaded guilty. According to a decision handed down Thursday by the Third Judicial Appellate Division Court affirming Monk’s original conviction and sentencing, Montgomery County court records showed clearly that she was aware.
“Catena is very careful about guilty pleas,” Conboy said. “He has them say exactly what they’re admitting to and tells them what it means. That plea took a half-hour.”
Monk’s real reason for appealing, he said, probably had more to do with a distaste for prison life.
She appealed all aspects of the conviction and sentencing, including $20,000 in restitution she was ordered to pay the victims’ family members, but Conboy said she was probably more concerned with the prison term.
“It was buyers’ remorse,” he said.
She filed the appeal a short time after the March 16, 2011, sentencing. After a few months in prison, Conboy said, she probably started to think pleading guilty was a bad idea.
“But driving under the influence of narcotics was the original bad idea,” he said.
Considering Gilmore’s death and Estelle’s shattered hips and legs, Conboy said Monk will likely not get parole until years after her minimum sentence is served.