Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plea Deal: Go Free after 33-Year Sentence; Woman Was Convicted in Bench Trial a Year Ago but Was Granted New Chance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plea Deal: Go Free after 33-Year Sentence; Woman Was Convicted in Bench Trial a Year Ago but Was Granted New Chance

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Korfhage

It turns out that Andrea Zampatti earned a lot more than a chance at a new trial in a May 23 ruling from the 5th District Court of Appeal.

Zampatti gets her life back.

Just less than a year after being sentenced to 33 years in prison for her role in an unexplained road rage incident on April 23, 2010, in St. Johns County, the Georgia native left Judge Michael Traynor's courtroom Monday with a Tuesday release date.

Uncertain how a jury would react to conflicting findings from doctors, the state chose to negotiate a plea agreement with Zampatti that allows her to go free on two years of community control and 10 years' probation.

"This is what we hoped for the first time around," said defense attorney John Trevena.

Zampatti pleaded no contest to six of the 14 felony charges she was facing. In addition to the probation, Zampatti was also ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, have no contact with the victims and not have a driver's license for five years.

It was a stunning turn in the case. Zampatti was convicted in a bench trial last year by Senior Judge Edward Hedstrom and later sentenced to the long prison term.

But she was granted a second chance when the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled on May 23 that she was entitled to a jury trial.

The decision from Senior Judge Charles Harris concluded: "The trouble is that having knowledge that your attorney asked for a non-jury trial is not the same as 'knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently' waiving your rights to a jury trial. There is nothing in the record to show that Appellant could insist on a jury trial when her attorney wanted a non-jury trial. She signed no waiver and the judge did not explain the benefits of a jury trial to her or the consequence of waiving it. She is entitled to a new trial."

Defense attorney John Trevena argued during a May 30, 2013, bench trial that Zampatti was insane at the time that she drove her SUV into several vehicles and bicyclists. …

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