WATERBURY — Letters and testimony from friends and family saved Alan Michael Harte from prison last Friday.
Harte, 67, of Watertown, had pleaded no contest to first-degree assault and reckless driving charges stemming from an April road rage incident in Naugatuck that left another man in a coma. Judge Richard A. Damiani sentenced Harte to three years of probation, including one year of house arrest, in Waterbury Superior Court.
“I don’t think you’re going to be back here,” Damiani told Harte. “I think it was an aberration. … You’ve done more good than I’ve seen 10 people do.”
Harte’s wife and two biological sons attended the sentencing. In addition to his sons, Harte has a daughter with leukemia and other foster children, said his attorney, Edward J. Gavin of Meehan, Meehan & Gavin in Bridgeport.
A teacher, a pediatrician at Southbury Training School and a nun were among those who sent letters to Damiani vouching for Harte’s character. Harte has settled a civil claim with the victim, Anthony “T.J.” Parente of Ansonia, and Parente and his family are not requesting Harte’s incarceration.
“They don’t feel the defendant’s a bad guy, and they don’t want to see him go to jail,” Gavin said.
Harte’s son Brian, an Ansonia police officer, described his father as an inspiration to the family and community.
“I owe this man more than life itself,” Brian Harte said.
Harte will be confined to his house for a year and will have to receive permission from a probation officer to leave for medical or religious reasons. He will be monitored on GPS, for which he will pay $335 per month. He is also forbidden to drive for a year.
Damiani said he might have sentenced Harte to jail if not for the outpouring of support the presentencing investigation netted.
“The facts of the case are horrific,” Damiani said.
The altercation began at about 4 p.m. on April 6, when Harte was traveling his Jeep Grand Cherokee southbound on Route 63 in front of Parente, who was riding a motorcycle. The police report says both were swerving in and out of lanes, but Parente said Harte kept hitting the brakes hard, prompting Parente to spit on his car and shout, “What the (expletive) is wrong with you?”
Police said Harte then ran over Parente, motorcycle and all, and fled the scene. Parente sustained life-threatening injuries to his chest, legs and liver, and doctors induced a coma so he would not try to rip out his breathing tubes.
Harte expressed regret. “I’d just like to apologize to my friends, my family, all of the other individuals who were involved in this horrible situation,” Harte said.