A drunken driver responsible for a 2009 crash that killed her close friend and seriously injured soccer star Charlie Davies was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, despite pleas from the heartbroken parents of one of the victims for a harsher sentence.
Maria Alejandra Espinoza, 23, of Clarksville, Md., tearfully apologized for her actions during a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. She pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter for the death of passenger Ashley Roberta, 22, of Phoenix, Md.
"I'm not a bad person but I made a bad choice," Espinoza said. "I should have shared the same fate as Ashley, if not traded places with her."
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of three to four years, which would have been in line with federal sentencing guidelines.
Roberta's parents asked the judge for the maximum sentence. Mike Roberta sobbed throughout his statement to the court.
"As a dad, you feel responsible for your child. I think I failed her," Roberta said.
The father said he worries constantly about the safety of his other child and lamented that he will not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
"I always wanted to give her away to someone better than me," Roberta said.
Mother Jan Roberta described her life as "a nightmare I never wake from" as she glared at Espinoza.
"Ashley was killed because of her (Espinoza's) drunken, gross negligence, reckless driving," she said.
In a phone interview after the sentencing, Jan Roberta said she was unmoved by Espinoza's apology. "I think she feels bad for herself, honestly," she said.
Ashley Roberta, a University of Maryland graduate, was preparing to enroll in law school when she was killed. "She sparkled. She was the 'it' girl," her mother said. "She would have made such a difference."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosanne Haney asked the judge to consider the fact that, after pleading guilty last year, Espinoza was out in public drinking shots of liquor and was drunk on at least three separate occasions, even though she was under a court order to refrain from alcohol.
The public drinking "causes us to question the sincerity of her contrition," Haney said. "A drunken driving offense should be a wakeup call to an offender."
Prosecutors said Espinoza was legally intoxicated as she drove Davies and Ashley Roberta on the George Washington Parkway, a federal roadway, on their way back to Davies' hotel from a night club on Oct. 13, 2009. As she fiddled with her GPS system to navigate the unfamiliar road, she drove off the parkway and crashed with such force that Espinoza's Infiniti sedan was split in two. Roberta was pronounced dead at the scene. Davies was pinned in the rear passenger seat with life threatening injuries.
Davies, now a member of DC United, missed the 2010 World Cup as he recovered from his injuries, which included a ruptured bladder, a broken, leg, arm and ribs as well as facial fractures.
Davies did not attend Friday's hearing but his lawyer, Jon Pels, read a statement in which Davies deferred to the Roberta family's wishes on Espinoza's sentence.
"My injuries, no matter how severe, pale in comparison to the death of Ashley Roberta," Davies said in the statement.
Davies had known both women for several months. In a radio interview earlier this week, Davies said he had forgiven Espinoza. After Friday's hearing, Pels said, "Charlie can forgive, but the forgiveness comes with an asterisk, because he really does suffer for the parents of Ms. Roberta."