Italian gets 3 years in US jogger hit-and-run case

April 19, 2012 - 10:36 AM

ROME (AP) — A court has sentenced an Italian man to more than three years in prison for the hit-and-run death of an American woman, killed last year as she jogged along a Tuscan highway.

The body of Allison Owens, a 23-year-old tour guide from Columbus, Ohio, was found in a canal days after she was hit Oct. 2 near San Giovanni Valdarno, between Florence and Arezzo.

Pietro Stefanoni, 53, was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter and leaving the scene of the crime, and given the 38-month sentence by the Arezzo court, said attorney Valentino Durante, who is representing Owens' family in the civil portion of the trial.

Stefanoni's lawyer Francesco Maresca said Thursday the sentence was excessive given that Stefanoni said he didn't initially know he had hit Owens. He plans to appeal.

Maresca has said Stefanoni fell asleep at the wheel after taking part in a long cycling race earlier in the day and didn't think he had hit anything other than the guardrail. Stefanoni returned to the scene later to make sure but saw nothing, and only realized he might have been responsible days later after news was broadcast that Owens' body had been discovered.

He turned himself into police on Oct. 7, after he had his car repaired.

Owens' mother, Cindy Gant Owens, and her brother Kyle had attended the opening hearing. The mother was in court Wednesday for the verdict, breaking into tears afterward.

Stefanoni had requested a fast-track trial, which can limit sentencing, but in this case Judge Giampiero Borraccia went beyond prosecutors' requests for a three-year sentence. Borraccia must provide a written explanation for the sentence within 60 days.

Stefanoni also was ordered to pay a provisional €300,000 ($392,580) to Owens' family pending the resolution of the civil portion of the case.

In a statement, Durante said the sentence was unusually stiff for Italy, and that it appeared to take into account his requests for a harsh sentence given Stefanoni's conduct in the days after Owens was killed.

He said the Owens family plans to donate any eventual civil damages from the case to an as-yet undetermined group that works to promote highway safety.