MIAMI (CBS4) – The woman accused in the DUI hit and run death of a South Beach chef accepted a plea deal Wednesday that will send her to prison for four years.
Karlie Tomica will spend four years in state prison, two years under house arrest and 15 years on probation in connection to the death of Stefano Riccioletti.
She tearfully admitted her guilt in court surrounded by family.
“My actions changed the lives of many innocent people. The greatest and most tragic being the death of Stefano Riccioletti,” Tomica said. She looked directly at the victim’s ex-wife as she said, “I’m so very, very sorry.”
Clutching a tissue in one hand and photos of the victims children in the other, the one-time self-proclaimed “Party Princess” begged for forgiveness.
She said she “panicked” when she realized she had hit someone and a Good Samaritan tried to flag her down.
“Driving away and leaving him to die was inexcusable,” Tomica said.
The once blonde bartender showed up to court as a brunette with glasses.
She stood and listened as the judge explained the terms of the deal.
Her family held her as the victim’s ex-wife and mother of two of his children, Patrizia Pesce, read a statement in court.
“I believe it’s Stefano’s spirit of second chances giving you this opportunity,” Pesce said.
The prosecutor called Pesce the “driving force behind the deal.”
Pesce gave pictures of Riccioletti’s three children two Tomica as she explained what their lives will be like without their father.
“What will you do with this opportunity,” Pesce asked. “Will you waste it or will you dedicate your life to improving the lives of others and not destroying them?”
As part of the plea deal, Tomica agreed to volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and to make a donation to MADD each year on Riccioletti’s birthday.
Her license will be revoked for life.
The deal also sets her up as a witness in the civil case against her former employer, Nikki Beach.
Tomica, in open court, admitted to drinking at work in the hours before the crash. She is 20 years old.
“I had been drinking while I was at work,” Tomica said. “I got very drunk. I hit him with my car and I killed him.”
Nikki Beach attorney Richard Della Fera had maintained there was no evidence Tomica drank while on the job.
“We’ve looked at the videos,” Della Fera said. “She must have been doing it very secretively because we certainly didn’t see it. She signed an employee agreement saying she wouldn’t drink on the job.”
In a prepared statement, Della Fera also said, “The club did nothing wrong in this tragic case and we look forward to having our day in court.”
Before being handcuffed, fingerprinted and led out of the courtroom, Tomica hugged her family one last time.
“More than anything, I’ve wanted to tell Stefano’s family how sorry I am. I wanted desperately to hug them if they’d let me and cry with them,” she said. “I am praying for your forgiveness and hope that one day I will have it.”
The timing of the deal is not coincidental.
With Tomica’s 21st birthday coming up, her attorney wanted to make sure an agreement could be reached in time so she could still be sentenced as a “youthful offender”.
Had this case gone to trial and she’d been found guilty, Tomica’s attorney, Mark Shapiro, said she faced up to 30 years in prison.