Lauren Pazienza was sentence to eight-and-a-half years behind bars during her sentencing hearing, which is six months more than what was recommended as part of the plea agreement she made with the Manhattan’s District Attorney’s Office.
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In handing down a slightly more severe sentence, Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Felicia Mennin said she was unconvinced that Pazienza had taken responsibility for her actions on March 10, 2022, when Pazienza shouted obscenities at Gustern — who was leaving a gathering with students — and “intentionally shoved her to the ground,” causing the vocal coach to fall on her head. Gustern suffered a brain injury that killed her several days after the attack.
“I am really concerned about your apparent inability to take responsibility for your actions,” Mennin told Pazienza, who said prior to sentencing that she was “profoundly sorry” for her actions. “If it was my grandmother, I would be broken and my life would be shattered,” she said.
Gustern’s grandson A.J. also spoke during the sentencing and criticized Pazienza’s apology as “contrived.” “I curse you, Lauren Pazienza,” Gustern said, Newsday reported. “For the rest of your days, may you be miserable.”
Gustern’s clientele included Blondie’s Debbie Harry, avant-garde heroine Diamanda Galás, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, Broadway performers, downtown firebrands, and anyone who wanted to learn to sing. When it was time to hit a show to see her pupils, she’d walk up to a mile and a half. “She was 4’11” and probably weighed 70 pounds,” Harry previously told Rolling Stone following Gustern’s death. “She had the body of a child, but she was a dynamo in this little, tiny body. It was just astounding.”
“She was that rare New Yorker who wasn’t bitter,” Hanna said. “I wanted to be as generous and smart and good at my craft as she was. I wanted to be as well-read and funny; she’s fucking hilarious.”
In August, Harry responded to Pazienza’s sentencing and condemned what she felt was a too-lenient sentence for the senseless crime. “It’s incomprehensible that proper justice for her murder was not delivered,” she said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “The city’s failure to administer adequate punishment — settling for a plea deal that will likely see Lauren Pazienza serve less than 8 years for murder — is a disservice to Barbara and the contributions she made to this city.”
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