N.J. woman faces up to 10 years in prison in texting while driving fatality

A New Jersey woman has been convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of a pedestrian that prosecutors said occurred as the driver was texting. (Public domain)

A New Jersey woman has been convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of a pedestrian that prosecutors said occurred as the driver was texting. (Public domain)

A New Jersey woman has been convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of a pedestrian that prosecutors said occurred as the driver was texting, an accusation the defendant denied on the stand.

Monmouth County prosecutors said 50-year-old Alexandra Mansonet of Keansburg rear-ended another car that struck 39-year-old Yuwen Wang as she was crossing a street in Hazlet in September 2016. Wang died five days later.

Prosecutors argued that Mansonet was distracted by a text about dinner plans in New York City. Mansonet said she read the message before leaving. She said she was looking down to turn on her rear defogger before striking the car.

Prosecutors questioned why the text was unanswered, although the letters “M” and “e” were typed. Authorities say an investigation determined that Mansonet never activated her brakes before the collision.

She faces five to 10 years in state prison, and her sentence is subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act, requiring her to serve 85 percent before becoming eligible for parole, prosecutors said.

“This is a tragedy in every respect. Texting while driving puts drivers and pedestrians in grave danger and we are hopeful that the jury’s verdict will reinforce the public’s awareness of this risk,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said. “Even taking your eyes off the road for mere seconds is not worth the risk of the serious bodily injury or death that can result from texting while driving,”

Gramiccioni told CNN that it was the first trial in Monmouth County that relied on cell phone evidence to prosecute a vehicular homicide case. “We believe it is one of — if not — the first such trials in the state,” he said.

Defense attorney Steven Altman said he was disappointed by the verdict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.