Her Plea Deal Stated She'd Serve 8 Years. She'll Do More

Lauren Pazienza pleaded guilty to fatally shoving Broadway singing coach
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Her Plea Deal Stated She'd Serve 8 Years. She'll Do More
Lauren Pazienza appears in court Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in New York.   (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP, File)

A New York judge sentenced a woman who pleaded guilty to fatally shoving an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach onto a Manhattan sidewalk to six months more in prison than the eight years that had been previously reached in a plea deal. During Friday's sentencing of Lauren Pazienza for manslaughter, Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Felicia Mennin said she was unconvinced that the 28-year-old Long Island woman took responsibility for her actions on March 10, 2022, when she pushed Barbara Maier Gustern to the ground. Gustern, whose students included "Blondie" singer Debbie Harry, lay bleeding on a sidewalk. She died five days later.

Pazienza encountered Gustern on West 23rd Street and shoved her to the ground in what police called "an unprovoked, senseless attack." The New York Post reports that prior to sentencing, Pazienza allegedly told a probation officer she "ran into" the victim. Her initial apology to the court was just 10 seconds long, per the Post, prompting her lawyer to encourage her to say more. Gustern's grandson, AJ Gustern, called Pazienza's apology "contrived." "I curse you, Lauren Pazienza," he said as he read from a statement in court, Gothamist reported. "For the rest of your days, may you be miserable."

Pazienza pleaded guilty on Aug. 23. The former event planner, who has been held at Rikers since May 2022, could have been sentenced to 25 years had she been convicted during a trial. According to prosecutors, Pazienza attacked Gustern after storming out of a nearby park, where she and her fiance had been eating meals from a food cart. Gustern had just left her apartment to catch a student's performance after hosting a rehearsal for a cabaret show, friends told the New York Times. Gustern worked with singers ranging from the cast members of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical "Oklahoma!" to experimental theater artist and 2017 MacArthur "genius grant" recipient Taylor Mac, who told the Times she was "one of the great humans that I've encountered."

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