Rejected 7 year plea becomes 9 month sentence

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Robbinsville man receives 9 month sentence

Seven year plea deal was previously rejected
By Jenna Pizzi/The Times of Trenton
on October 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM

In a crowded courtroom filled with family and friends, Robert McNamara was handcuffed and taken into custody yesterday afternoon to begin serving a nine-month prison term for causing the accident that killed a New Hope, Pa., restaurateur in 2010.

As Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier read his sentence, McNamera’s mother sobbed while Melanie Patino, the wife of Enrique Patino who was killed in the accident on Route 29 in Ewing, cried “finally, finally some justice.”

In addition to the nine-month county jail sentence, McNamara, 28, of Robbinsville, will have to serve two years of probation which will require him to complete 100 hours of community service, undergo random drug testing, report to a probation officer and pay restitution in the amount of $17,633 to the Patino family.

McNamara pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault by auto in July, accepting a plea deal from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. The deal did not include a sentence agreement. That was left to Billmeier, who issued his decision yesterday in Trenton.

McNamara and his attorney Jerome Ballarotto had declined several previous plea offers from the state.

McNamara was driving south on Route 29 about 2:30 a.m. on July 31, 2010, when he hit Patino, the owner of the Blue Tortilla on Main Street in New Hope, who was on a motorcycle.

Patino’s 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle was stopped at a red light at the intersection with Lower Ferry Road in Ewing when McNamara’s 2004 Toyota Corolla struck him from behind. Patino was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

McNamara was administered a drug test and results showed that he had a .066 percent blood alcohol level, below the .08 percent that constitutes drunk driving in New Jersey.

Patino’s family appeared in court asking Billmeier to impose the maximum sentence of
18 months in jail.

“The night my father died, Mr. McNamara had a choice to get into a car,” said Enrique Patino’s son, also called Enrique.

“Because my father isn’t here to do so, I look you in the eyes and thank you from the bottom of my heart for the justice you are about to do for my family,” said Patino’s son to Billmeier.

Melanie Patino told the court how every day she suffers the pain of losing her husband and partner.

“I can do nothing to take this pain away,” said Melanie Patino through tears while standing before the court. “This is a life sentence for sure.”

McNamara apologized to the family, saying he thinks of their pain every day.

“It pains me every day just knowing that I was involved in something that cut short another person’s life,” said McNamara. “All I can think about is the father who lost his son; the wife, her husband; the siblings, their brother; and most of all the kids, their father.”

About 40 family members and friends of McNamara’s filled the courtroom, asking the judge to be lenient for the Eagle Scout who they know as a caring community member.

Chris Ematowicz, who has known McNamara since he was in high school, described McNamara as a caring man who is an inspiration to many.

“He spends countless hours helping others,” said Ematowicz. “For someone who does so much good, one tragic accident should not have that all erased.”

Ballarotto said he and his client expected that the sentence would require some jail time and he does not intend to appeal the sentence.

Patino grew up in Los Angeles and Acapulco, Mexico. He once ran an art gallery in New Hope. In 2004 he and his family opened Blue Tortilla, which served traditional Mexican cuisine.

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