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NEWARK — An Essex County judge increased bail to $75,000 for a Rahway woman accused of texting before the crash that killed an Elizabeth man this month, citing the woman’s history of bad driving and more than a dozen missed court appearances.
During a court hearing in Newark, Essex County Superior Court Judge Peter Vazquez held aloft Jennifer Sahoye’s state driving record, expressing amazement at its length.
“This abstract is 17 pages long,” Vazquez said. “It shows a total disregard for the orders of the court.”
Vazquez increased Sahoye’s bail by $25,000 on the vehicular homicide charge for which she faces as much as 10 years in prison. She was expected to post her bail Tuesday afternoon.
Last week, Sahoye became the first person in Essex County to be charged with vehicular homicide while texting.
Carlos Carvalho, 58, was killed Oct. 10 when prosecutors say Sahoye’s Volvo sedan crossed several southbound express lanes on Routes 1&9 near the Route 78 interchange and sideswiped Carvalho’s pickup truck as he headed home from work in the southbound local lanes.
Assistant Prosecutor Erica Liu called for a $100,000 bail, citing the 13 municipal court appearances that Sahoye, 35, has missed since 1998 after being tagged repeatedly for speeding and other driving violations.
“She has a history of not appearing in court,” Liu told Vazquez.
Sahoye stood quietly beside her lawyer, Anthony Palumbo, as the two sides debated.
“It’s true that she has a bad driving record but she’s not here because of the driving record,” Palumbo said. “She’ll be here. She knows without me saying it that she needs to attend each and every appearance before the court.”
“This abstract is 17 pages long. It shows a total disregard for the orders of the court.”
But Liu revealed Tuesday that cell phone records obtained through a search warrant revealed that Sahoye was sending and receiving text messages around 5 p.m., moments before the crash.
And, Liu said, a witness called 911 to report the accident to police at approximately the same time the texting occurred.
Additionally, the prosecutor said, another witness reported seeing Sahoye’s head down when Sahoye repeatedly “tried to cut him off” as he tried to pass her on the highway.
“The likelihood of conviction in this case is great,” Liu told the judge.
The Star-Ledger reported last week that state Motor Vehicle Commission records show Sahoye has racked up 35 moving violations and 65 license suspensions since 1996, the year after she was first issued a license.
She’s been ticketed nine times for speeding in Holmdel, Roselle, Linden and elsewhere, in some cases exceeding 30 mph over the speed limit, state records show.
Liu said Tuesday that on at least two occasions Sahoye has failed to pay state surcharges in order to have her license restored. At the time of the crash, Sahoye’s license had been suspended. And, Liu said, Sahoye missed a municipal court appearance as recently as Aug. 23, 2013.
Carvalho’s family members sat in the back rows of the courtroom watching the proceedings. Afterward, they declined to comment.
“This family is devastated by the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather and a son,” said the family’s lawyer, Jonathan Arnold. “They want everyone to understand the dangers of texting and driving.”
Carvalho emigrated from Mozambique in the 1970’s and worked as a welder for many years while raising a family in Elizabeth, his son Charles said last week.