Suzanne K. Lammers, the Main Line woman who pleaded guilty in a hit-and-run car accident this summer, was taken to jail this morning after being sentenced to at least 90 days in prison.
During an hour-long hearing in Norristown, Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter ordered Lammers, 77, to begin serving her sentence immediately.
She sagged onto the defense table and seemed physically ill after hearing the sentence. Shaking, she asked the sheriff for a wastebasket and threw up in it.
The judge said he chose jail over house arrest because of her initial failure to come forward and take responsibility for the crime.
"In a sense, she's been running and hiding ever since. Now she's trying to evade the consequences that the legislature intended for this crime," said Carpenter, who set the maximum prison time at 23 months.
Basically, after three months of incarceration, she would be eligible for parole for the next 20 months of her sentence, then on probation for another year. She must also perform 200 hours of community service.
Lammers, a socialite from Hepburn Drive in Villanova, admitted at a court hearing in July that she hit and critically injured then 13-year-old Andrew Mallee of Bryn Mawr as he rode his bicycle on July 15, 2009.
The noontime accident occurred near the intersection of Bryn Mawr Avenue and New Gulph Road in Bryn Mawr. Lammers told police she pulled over initially, then drove home when she became flustered by police sirens.
She hid her gold 2002 Volvo station wagon by parking it in her garage with a blue blanket covering a large hole in the windshield, according to court records.
A tipster guided police to her door, according to court testimony, but even at that juncture, Lammers told investigators the damage came from a collision with a deer on July 24.
Lower Merion Township Police, who attended the sentencing, would not divulge who provided the tip. Asked if they were satisfied with the sentence, one officer nodded yes.
Mallee, a freshman at Harriton High School in Rosemont, suffered a broken leg and head injuries, police said. He has recovered, but has trouble with balance and hearing from his right ear. He was present in court this morning wearing a navy blue blazer, shirt and formal slacks, but didn't speak.
His mother, Linda Todorow, 41, testified for the prosecution that the accident had turned the family's life upside-down, due to the lengthy recovery and uncertainty over what the lasting effects of the boy's injuries would be.
"It's been a constant worry," Todorow testified. "I'm watching him play, and he falls, and my heart stops."
She said the boy can walk and run somewhat, but after a short time running, he begins to limp.
The defense offered seven persons to attest to Lammers' character, including Isaac H. and Barbara Clothier, members of an old Main Line family.
Only two testified. Dr. Horace MacVaugh, a longtime family friend, said he had known Lammers for more than three decades.
The Rev. Judith Sullivan depicted Lammers as a longtime member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, and as active in charity and Bible studies.
"Mrs. Lammers is known to be a kind and good-hearted person who would never knowingly hurt anyone," Sullivan said.
But in his closing argument, Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Thomas McGoldrick scoffed at the notion that Lammers treated others with care.
"That's not who she is," McGoldrick argued. "She never came forward. Thirteen days went by, and she's out living her life, driving around in a pickup truck.
"Not until later [July 28], when police confront her, does she finally admit to being involved in the crash at New Gulph Road and Bryn Mawr Avenue. A caring and compassionate person doesn't do that."
Lammers' counsel, Philadelphia lawyer Frank DeSimone, tried to show through cross-examination that the boy wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and bore some responsibility for the severity of his injuries.
DeSimone further argued that good character, advanced age and that fact that she had no previous offenses should qualify Lammers for house arrest, but the judge disagreed.
Carpenter said he realized that Lammers came from "privilege and affluence," but said "this court does not hand out house arrest without compelling reasons."
"House arrest would not be a significant punishment," the judge said. "Even nobles," he said, must be held to account for misdeeds.
Lammers wore a white top and blue printed skirt with low heels. As the judge pronounced sentence, she cried softly. Rising to confer with DeSimone, Lamers appeared to shake, and then became ill. She was led away by two white-shirted sheriffs.
Andrew's father, Fran Mallee, 42, expressed satisfaction with the result after the hearing.
"We think that justice was served. The appropriate sentence was given," Mallee said. "My son forgives her for anything that was caused. We hold no ill will and hope the best for her."
McGoldrick said outside the courtroom that he felt the jail term was proper, "given her utter lack of remorse or compassion as the days evolved."
Lammers did not address the court, and that angered at least one member of his family. "She never said she was sorry," said a man who would not give his name.
Lammers was charged with being involved in an accident causing serious injury, a third-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
A less serious offense, failing to stop and render aid, was merged into the felony, law enforcement officials said.
The Mallee family has filed a civil suit, which is expected to progress now that the criminal matter is resolved. Richard J. Hollawell, the Mount Laurel attorney handling the case, attended the hearing.
He said afterward that the next step would be to depose Lammers, but that wouldn't happen until after she has served her time in jail.