BRATTLEBORO -- A New Jersey woman will go to jail for a month for her role in what was described as a near-fatal 2011 crash in Brattleboro.
But Ashley Tyler, 25, first will have some time to nurse her newborn baby. At the request of Tyler's attorney, and with her baby a few rows behind her in the courtroom, Judge David Suntag ruled that Tyler can report to prison in February.
Prosecutors did not object to that schedule.
"I don't want to punish the baby and the baby's health for Ms. Tyler's actions," Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown said.
Brattleboro police said Tyler was at the wheel of an Acura TSX in the early morning hours of June 24, 2011. She and two others had been drinking, telling police they had visited bars in Keene, N.H., and in Vernon before making their way to Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro.
A woman in the car, Kaitlin Austin, later told police that Tyler and Timothy Velazquez, who was riding with them, "began to argue over who was a better driver," Brattleboro police Sgt. Mark Carignan wrote in an affidavit.
"Tyler claimed that she was a better driver and began to speed up in order to prove this, reaching speeds of 70 to 80 mph," Carignan wrote.
Tyler apparently lost control and failed to negotiate a curve near the Austine School on Maple Street. Carignan said he found the car "upside-down in a stream bed" and "heavily damaged."
Tyler's blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash was estimated at 0.13 percent, which is above the state's 0.08 percent limit for drivers.
Velazquez suffered minor injuries, police said, while Tyler sustained a broken wrist and a concussion. But Austin was severely hurt, with injuries including a fractured pelvis, broken right femur, shattered right knee and several broken ribs.
"Ms. Austin has been 100 percent cooperative and involved in this prosecution," Brown said this week in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
"She sustained really serious injuries," Brown said. "She is very fortunate to be alive and to have made as full a recovery as she has made."
Months of investigation followed the crash, and Tyler was charged in April 2012. Brown said the case included DNA analysis to confirm that Tyler was the driver.
"This was exemplary work by Mark Carignan," Brown said. "It was a fairly lengthy investigation, but we wanted to make sure we got it right."
Defense attorney Chris Montgomery said there was a chance Tyler could have avoided jail under a plea deal for the crash. But those chances evaporated when she was charged with another DUI in January of this year in Dover.
In that incident, police said they found Tyler's car stuck in a snow bank off Route 100. Tyler was suspected of driving under the influence and was taken to Dover's police station, where she allegedly acted out repeatedly.
According to court documents, Tyler threw a phone handset, tried to cover a camera with tissue, attempted to flood a holding cell by flushing a roll of toilet paper and eventually claimed she was pregnant and having contractions.
Tyler, of Keyport, N.J., entered guilty pleas covering both cases, admitting to DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI and violating her conditions of release.
She was sentenced Tuesday, receiving five to eight years of jail time that is all suspended save for 30 days that she must serve starting Feb. 7.
Suntag said Tyler could wind up serving all of the sentence if she does not comply with court orders.
"You must report on time, sober and drug-free to do your 30 days," Suntag said. "If you don't show up for that, then you're looking at the entire five to eight years."
Just prior to sentencing, Tyler addressed the court briefly.
"I would just like to say, thank you for allowing me to spend some time with my son to nurse him," she said. "And I realize what I did was not OK."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.