Former Navy sailor sentenced to more than six years in fatal crash
Daniel Musser, a former altar boy who studied to be a priest for several years before joining the Navy, has been sentenced to 75 months in a prison and a variety of strict probation conditions for causing the March 2009 crash that killed Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante and injured eight others.
Judge Robert Young imposed the sentence following an emotional hearing in Superior Court in Norwich that featured testimony from Durante's father, who said he forgives Musser, from parents traumatized by the accident and from Musser himself.
Durante, a 20-year-old premed student, was heading to Logan Airport, where she and other students planned to fly to Uganda for a humanitarian trip. Musser, intoxicated after spending the night at a Mohegan Sun nightclub, drove the wrong way on Interstate 395 and crashed head on into the van carrying the students..
Durante's parents told judge Young that they have forgiven Musser, because that is what Elizabeth would have wanted.
"I believe in my heart you probably didn't know what you did," said Keith Durante, a surgeon from Long Island. "I can accept that. It's what you do now that really matters."
The parents of other students involved in the crash were less forgiving. Claudia Gordon, mother of student Jessica Gordon, spoke for an hour, crying at times and urging the judge to impose the maximum sentence along with the strictest probation conditions.
Musser, a 25-year-old Missouri native who has remained in prison while his case was pending, and who was dishonorably discharged from the Navy, stood and faced Durante's family while delivering his statement. He said he had brought shame to his family and country and committed "the ultimate act of insubordination."
"I have failed on so many fronts, as a sailor a citizen and as a son," he said.
He acknowledged he has incurred a debt he can never fully repay, but said he would try.
Musser will be required to attend two Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panels for each of the five years he is on probation. The judge also ordered him to serve 90 hours of community service each year – 10 hours for each of the accident victims – and to perform nine speaking engagements about the costs of drunken driving to college or high school students. Young also ordered Musser to not drive a vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device that measures his blood-alcohol level, not to consume or possess alcohol and to undergo drug and alcohol evaluations. He said Musser would not be eligible for early termination of his probation. At the time of the crash, Musser's blood alcohol level was .13. The legal limit for driving in Connecticut is .08. He had slept in his car for 90 minutes before leaving the casino, exiting the wrong way out of the garage and driving the wrong way on the access ramp before entering the highway and driving head on into the student transport van. .
Young told Musser that if he could convey to other young people "the mess your life has become" he might be able to prevent similar incidents.
"Mr. Musser, as you surely know today, this horrible incident could have been prevented by you in so many ways."