A young New York woman was charged with manslaughter and assault after turning herself in following a reportedly unprovoked attack that led the death of an acclaimed Broadway vocal coach.
Lauren Pazienza, a 26-year-old originally from Port Jefferson, Long Island, was accompanied by her defense attorney Arthur Aidala Tuesday morning when she entered the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) 10th precinct. Several hours later, Pazienza was filmed being escorted out of the precinct to be transported to Manhattan Criminal Court, Fox News Digital reported.
At the approximately 20 minute hearing, the prosecution detailed the incident from March 10 that led to the death of Barbara Maier Gustern, 87. CBS2 reported that Gustern had been waiting for a cab outside her Chelsea apartment when Pazienza crossed the street to confront her.
After allegedly calling Gustern a “b*tch,” according to the New York Post, Pazienza shoved Gustern to the ground where Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney stated she was left “bleeding profusely from the head.”
Surveillance footage revealed a woman matching Pazienza’s description remaining in the area to watch as ambulances arrived on the scene. Additional footage showed that woman having another altercation at nearby Penn Station with a man McNabney believes to be Pazienza’s fiancé. The two boarded a train heading toward Astoria.
Gustern, who CBS2 reported coached casts from Broadway productions and stars like vocalist Debbie Harry from Blondie, had been taken to the hospital where she died from injuries five days later on March 15.
Her grandson, A.J. Gustern, wrote on her Facebook page to report the loss of “one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world.”
He also told CBS2 that his grandmother “was a force of nature. I called her a little neutron star, right, a ball of energy, building community everywhere she went,” before adding of Pazienza, “I’d like to stress, innocent until proven guilty…If she did do this, then I would like answers. But I’m still praying for you, and the karmic weight you’ve taken on is incredible. May God help you.”
Because of Gustern’s death, manslaughter was added to the original assault charges and Judge Michael Gaffney set bail at $500,000 in addition to orders for her to have a mental-health evaluation and medical exam, the NY Post said.
Aidala argued for leniency claiming that “pushing someone who’s on the sidewalk” does not compare to “pushing someone in front of a moving train,” and that his client was being overcharged. With her next court appearance set for Friday, Aidala said, “I anticipate her pleading guilty,” CBS2 included.
If found guilty of manslaughter, Pazienza will face up to 25 years in prison for the crime the NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig called “an unprovoked, senseless attack” and a “disgusting and disgraceful offense,” according to Fox News Digital.
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