It looks like the Laing family may get closure for Christmas.
I heard from a reliable source Wednesday afternoon that Stephanie Segal has entered a plea of No Contest to both counts in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last year.
That means she is not admitting guilt in the case, but won’t fight the charges, and will accept the court’s judgment in the case.
The judge has already indicated that he intends to impose a sentence of at least nine years in state prison, with formal sentencing to take place in late January of next year.
Laing was riding on in the bike lane on Agoura Hills Road on the afternoon of Saturday, October 23rd of last year, when he was run down from behind by Segal’s car and died at the scene. She fled the scene, and was followed by witnesses to a nearby parking lot, where she was arrested with a blood alcohol content of .26 — over three times the legal limit.
She almost immediately entered a rehab facility, where she spent much of the past year, whether in a genuine attempt to get help, or a callous — and failed — attempt to get leniency from the court.
By all accounts, Segal has refused to take any responsibility for getting drunk and climbing behind the wheel, let alone needlessly taking the life of an innocent human being.
I’m told that her testimony — against the advice of both the court and her own attorney — in the preliminary hearing was contradictory and confusing, backpedalling repeatedly as she attempted to shift the blame and explain away her actions.
Her attorney seemed to be making the case that she hadn’t attempted to flee, but merely continued driving until reaching a safe place to stop.
Laing’s sister Carolyn also reports that she tried to blame Laing for kicking her Mercedes Benz, which appears to have been a last-ditch effort to push away from her car in a failed attempt to save his own life.
In other words, he saw it coming. And there was nothing he could do.
Somehow, kicking a car in self defense seems to pale when compared to the drunken murder of another person. But Segal still doesn’t seem to get that.
By all accounts, she came off as arrogant and argumentative during her ill-advised testimony; I suspect her attorney strongly advised her to plead guilty to the charges to avoid digging herself in any deeper.
As one person put it to me, failure to do so after her dramatic failure on the stand probably would have been legal malpractice.
Of course, she’s not likely to spend the full term behind bars. The current prison overcrowding problems mean she’s likely to be released long before the nine years are up. And as a non-violent offender, she may even do her time in county jail.
But I wouldn’t count on getting time off for good behavior, either.
We can only hope that she’ll finally grasp the consequences of her actions as she sits in her cell, for however long that may end up being.
But at least the loved ones Jim Laing left behind can finally end this year with the light of a very long and tragic tunnel firmly in sight.
Update: An anonymous comment below indicates that Segal will be required to spend at least 85% of her sentence behind bars due to the nature and severity of her crime, and that the sentencing will take place on January 26th in the Malibu courthouse.