A 50-year-old man who was driving drunk in November when he killed the father of two children was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.
Steven V. Arcese has been in custody since the Nov. 3 accident that killed 26-year-old David C. Fisher.
The accident occurred near London Bridge and Dam Neck roads, where Arcese’s Audi station wagon crashed head-on with Fisher’s Chevrolet Cavalier. Fisher’s two children were passengers in the car but were not seriously injured.
In April, Arcese pleaded guilty to second-offense driving under the influence and aggravated involuntary manslaughter. He faced up to 21 years in prison.
In court Tuesday, Arcese told Fisher’s family: “In no way, on that horrible night in November, did I intend to cause that accident. I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.”
Circuit Judge Thomas S. Shadrick began to cry as he expressed sympathy to Fisher’s family shortly before issuing the sentence.
Shadrick gave Arcese the maximum 21 years but suspended all but 10.
Arcese will be on supervised probation after his release, with another 11 years in prison possible if he misbehaves during that time, Shadrick said.
Shadrick said harsher sentences likely are ahead for repeat offenders who drink and drive and hurt others. But, Shadrick said, until the law changes, he is obligated to stay close to state-mandated guidelines.
The maximum sentence recommended for Arcese by state guidelines was about 9.5 years in prison, Shadrick said.
The judge said he exceeded the guidelines a little to “make a statement, because the guidelines are a little low.”
Jim Fisher, the victim’s father, who has become an advocate for stiffer drunken-driving sentences, said he was satisfied with the time Arcese will serve in prison.
“This is a start,” Fisher said. “It is higher than the guidelines and that is all we were hoping for.”
Fisher said he hopes the decision to keep Arcese locked up without bond until sentencing will set the standard for others charged with second-offense DUI and higher.
The public outcry against drunken drivers has intensified in recent months after a rash of fatal DUI accidents.
In Norfolk recently, police say a repeat DUI offender killed a Lake Taylor High School student after a magistrate allowed him out of jail on a $1,000 bond on a previous DUI charge.
After the sentencing, Moody E. “Sonny” Stallings, one of two attorneys who represented Arcese, said he was “prepared for a little worse” because attitudes against drunken drivers are changing rapidly.
Much of the change stems from public reaction to the Arcese case and other recent fatal DUI crashes.
“The community is talking about this case,” Stallings said, especially at the Oceanfront, where Arcese is a well-known resident.
People are starting to realize when they are out drinking, they should “get a cab, call a friend or walk, because this kind of tragedy will be repeated again,” Stallings said.
Michael L. Goodove, a Norfolk lawyer and president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he would have preferred a longer sentence for Arcese.
“I think more time would have sent a stronger message to the community,” Goodove said. “and kept an habitual offender off the roads.”