Local composer Wendy Mae Chambers is known for her avant-garde musical scores and quirky instruments, not her singing voice. But she must have sung one helluva tune in court earlier this month to avoid going to jail.
On September 1, a year and a half after drunkenly plowing her SUV into a woman in South Beach and then trying to flee the scene, Chambers was sentenced to just six months in a swanky rehab center plus probation. But her victim isn't taking the court decision quietly. Instead, she's plotting revenge.
Just before midnight on March 25, 2009, Anna Tatakis was leaving her Washington Avenue restaurant, Sobe Gyro, when Chambers's white SUV slammed into her, pinning her against two parked cars and shattering her legs.
As she lay crumpled on the ground, Tatakis was just lucid enough to spot Chambers fleeing the scene. Luckily, a witness ran down the vehicle at a red light and yanked the keys out of the ignition.
Moments later, cops arrived and pulled Chambers out from behind the wheel. According to the arrest report, she was so drunk she "could barely lift her foot off of the ground." Chambers, whose music has graced classy joints such as New York's Museum of Modern Art and Miami's Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, promptly belched that she was "slightly drunk" on vodka and Red Bull.
Chambers posted $5,000 bail the following afternoon. Exactly one month later, she put on a huge show at Vizcaya complete with 64 toy pianos.
"This woman destroyed my life," Tatakis says. "I've got two plates and 18 screws in my leg, and I lost my business. All because of her. And there she was posing for photos."
For a while, it looked like Tatakis was going to get the justice she deserved. Prosecutors charged Chambers with driving under the influence resulting in serious injury and with leaving the scene of the accident, both third-degree felonies. The case seemed open-and-shut: Tatakis says prosecutors promised her Chambers would get jail time. Just to make sure, she says, she submitted a passionate letter to be read in court.
"People told me that even the court officials were crying when my statement was read out loud," Tatakis tells Riptide from a phone booth in an undisclosed foreign country.
But on September 1, while Tatakis was still overseas, Chambers was sentenced to a maximum of six months -- in rehab. And not just any rehab center. Tatakis says her tormentor will be taking it easy in the swanky Palm Beach Institute.
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"How can somebody charged with two felonies, with a mountain of evidence against her, get off without jail time?" Tatakis fumes. "Something went wrong here." She suspects a last-minute deal arranged behind closed doors. Chambers's lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Nonetheless, Tatakis is determined to reap her revenge -- if not in court, then by capturing Chambers checking into rehab on TV news. Even if she has to jet back to Miami to do it.
"I've kept quiet for a year and a half because the prosecutors told me it might create a conflict of interest for the jury," Tatakis says. "All I want is one picture of her. That's my only justice."