Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in crash

Woman driving SUV was hit in Glen Burnie

September 10, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

They were sweethearts from the time they were 15, some 45 years ago. She liked to sew and quilt, but mostly liked being with her seven grandchildren and the rest of her family.

"We were inseparable," Albert Gesualdi Sr. of Pasadena said yesterday outside the Anne Arundel County courtroom where a Bowie man admitted minutes earlier to killing Gesualdi's wife of 39 years in a crash last winter. "Nobody can understand what this loss means."

Phyllis Gesualdi, 60, died the night of Feb. 8 when a minivan driven by Anthony William Kozak sped through a red light to elude police and slammed into the driver's side of her Ford Explorer, causing it to overturn and sending it 155 feet across Crain Highway in Glen Burnie.

Yesterday, Kozak, 25, tearfully pleaded guilty to automobile manslaughter before Circuit Judge Michele D. Jaklitsch. Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors will seek the maximum sentence of 10 years, with five years suspended.

Defense lawyer C. Michael Walls referred to "a series of tragic events" and has requested a psychological evaluation and a pre-sentence report. Kozak has received counseling at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 17.

Assistant State's Attorney Shelly A. Stickell told the judge that Kozak was driving his Chevrolet Astro south on Crain Highway near Georgia Avenue shortly after 10 p.m. the night of the crash when it drew the attention of police officer Todd Betz because it was missing one license plate.

With the police car's emergency lights on, Betz followed the vehicle, which was not speeding. The driver did not pull over after several blocks, and Betz turned on the siren. Kozak's vehicle "noticeably" picked up speed, but the officer decided against chasing it, and soon turned off the lights and siren, although he followed it, Stickell said.

Crash reconstruction experts estimated that Kozak's Chevrolet Astro was traveling at least 61 mph in the 40 mph zone when he went through the red light and crashed into Phyllis Gesualdi's Explorer. The impact put a dent nearly 2 feet deep into the driver's side of the SUV and there was no indication that Kozak had tried to stop, Stickell said.

Phyllis Gesualdi was pronounced dead at North Arundel Hospital. Her passenger, daughter Theresa Schoolman, then 35, was treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Stickell said that officers at the scene had to break out the van's window to get Kozak out and that more officers were needed to subdue him. A bag of marijuana was taken from him, and tests later showed opiates as well as marijuana in his system, she said. A drug-related charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

At the time of the crash, Kozak had an outstanding warrant for theft charges, and his license had been suspended for a third time for not appearing in court, Stickell said. She said Kozak told police he was eluding the officer because he could not afford another ticket and was trying to get his life together.

Kozak, who answered routine questions in court about the plea, will have an opportunity to speak before he is sentenced.

As Stickell described the crash, some of Phyllis Gesualdi's relatives left the courtroom weeping. Her husband sat there somberly.

"I have no real life anymore because it was all wrapped around her," he said.

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