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Waterford man to serve 32 months for striking woman and stroller while under the influence

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Twenty-eight-year-old Shane Bidwell was sentenced Tuesday in New London Superior Court to 32 months in prison for striking a woman and the stroller carrying her 2-year-old daughter with his car on Greentree Drive in Waterford on June 11, 2018.

Bidwell got out of the car and said he was sorry before getting back in and driving away, according to Waterford police. He was pulled over about 7 miles away on Lamphere Road.

The mother, Alexandra Ballestrini, was treated for injuries to her left elbow and back. The child, who struck her head after being thrown from the stroller, suffered a traumatic head injury but is expected to fully recover, according to testimony.

Bidwell failed field sobriety tests and smelled of alcohol, though his blood alcohol concentration measured 0.077 percent, which is below the 0.08 percent legal level for driving, according to police. Sgt. Marc Balestracci, a drug recognition expert, determined Bidwell was under the influence of alcohol and central nervous system depressants. Bidwell told police he had taken his prescribed Suboxone pill, which is a maintenance drug for opioid addiction, and Klonopin, a sedative used to treat anxiety and seizures.

He has been held in lieu of $200,000 at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center while his case was pending and has been brought to court regularly while his attorney, Michael A. Blanchard, worked out a plea agreement with prosecutor Sarah W. Bowman.

On Tuesday, Bidwell pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and violation of probation. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein told Bidwell he is fortunate that nobody was killed while sentencing him to 10 years in prison, suspended after 32 months served, followed by five years of probation.

"It's a miracle the baby wasn't more severely injured," said attorney John J. Nazzaro, whose firm is representing the mother, toddler and the toddler's sister, who witnessed the incident, in a civil lawsuit. The civil complaint alleges Bidwell acted negligently and recklessly, and his father, Roger Bidwell, owner of the car, also was negligent because he allowed his son, whom he knew had a substance abuse problem, to drive the car.

Nazzaro said his clients agree with the sentence and want Bidwell to get help.

At the time of his arrest, Bidwell was on probation for drug offenses. His father said Bidwell has attempted to self-medicate for severe anxiety that went undiagnosed until he had a neuropsychological exam while his case was pending. He asked the judge to impose a sentence of time served, saying Bidwell's head has cleared while he's been incarcerated, but his anxiety has increased and he needs treatment not available in prison.

"I just want to say how remorseful I am for what happened, and I never intended it to happen," Bidwell said. "If I wasn't under the influence, it never would have happened."

Judge Strackbein said she was taking a couple of months off of the prosecutor's recommended sentence, but that there has to be a punishment.

"You're young," Strackbein said. "No one was killed. You're very lucky. You have to make a decision on sobriety."

While on probation, Bidwell is prohibited from using drugs and alcohol and must undergo a substance abuse evaluation, and treatment if deemed necessary. He is required to use an ignition interlock device if he drives, attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel and perform community service.

k.florin@theday.com

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