SALT LAKE CITY — As a West High student who admitted killing his two friends in a high-speed crash stood before a judge to be sentenced Thursday, the families of the deceased teens and a pregnant woman who was injured in the crash expressed opposite thoughts about what should happen to him.
The mothers of the two boys insisted that deliberately driving nearly 100 mph near a school, killing two people and nearly taking the lives of two more, warrants several years in prison.
But the woman who — along with her unborn daughter — was critically injured in the crash but survived, agreed with prosecutors, saying that a third young life should not be lost as a result of that tragic accident.
Ultimately, 3rd District Judge Keith Kelly sentenced Abraham Miranda, 19, to a year in jail, warning that if he does not comply with his lengthy probation, a prison sentence could be imposed.
"I have concluded this is the appropriate balance between punishment and mercy in a very, very difficult situation," Kelly said.
Miranda was given credit for the 135 days he has already spent in jail, which his attorney, Greg Skordas, said he has served without requesting bail and with no disciplinary issues because he agreed he was there as a punishment for what he had done.
In addition to his time in jail, Miranda was ordered to serve five years of probation, complete 250 hours of community service educating teen drivers and pay restitution to all three families affected by the crash.
Miranda raised his shackled hands to wipe tears from his eyes as the families of his deceased friends spoke Thursday. His voice was broken with sobs as he apologized repeatedly for his "irrevocable actions" and asked the judge for "a chance at redemption."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I wish I could take everything back," Miranda said through tears. "Every day I think about it."
He went on to assure that if he is given a chance to improve his life, he won't waste it, but will go on to college, study business and warn young drivers that their actions have consequences.
"I want to bring awareness to the youth to not be a reckless driver," Miranda said. "I want to be a positive force in my community."
Miranda pleaded guilty last month to two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, in the deaths of Dylan Emilio Hernandez, 18, and Vidal Pacheco-Tinoco, 17. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed a charge of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
Miranda, who was 18 at the time of the crash, estimates he reached 95 mph as he drove along 300 West on Feb. 16 near West High School, a 40 mph area, when his Chevy Impala struck a median and flew head-on into an oncoming vehicle.
Hernandez and Pacheco-Tinoco were killed on impact while the second vehicle went spinning into a nearby building.
Ginger Bosen, Hernandez's mother, told the judge that since her son was killed she has been plagued by grief, anxiety attacks and guilt for not protecting her son. Ultimately she realized, however, that only Miranda could have prevented the boy's death, she told the judge.
She insisted that a year in jail would be too lenient in light of Miranda's dangerous choices.
"If I had killed two people and nearly killed four, I would have fully expected I was going to prison. I would have seen that as justice," Bosen said.
Her father, Hernandez's grandfather, agreed.
"A car is like a weapon. It can kill innocent people if driven without any restraint," David Bosen said.
Pacheco-Tinoco's mother, Signorina Tinoco, said in Spanish that while she doesn't believe Miranda is a bad person, that doesn't change the pain she will feel as she goes through the rest of her life without her son.
I have concluded this is the appropriate balance between punishment and mercy in a very, very difficult situation.
–3rd District Judge Keith Kelly
She went on to say that just one year in jail was unfair, emphasizing that a lenient sentence would send the wrong message to young people about punishment for such reckless actions.
But the driver of the other vehicle, Amy Elizabeth Stevenson-Wilson, asked the judge to keep Miranda out of prison so that he could have a chance at a positive future.
"Please be lenient and merciful in the sentence that you give Abraham Miranda, in order that his life not be wasted," she said.
Stevenson-Wilson was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury and 15 broken bones, and she had to have a kidney and her spleen removed, according to charging documents. Her infant daughter, whom she named Grace Deliverance Wilson, was successfully delivered through an emergency cesarean section despite being six weeks early.
Stevenson-Wilson is still recovering from her injuries, including requiring crutches and being limited in carrying or lifting her baby daughter, and it won't be known for several years what impact the loss of oxygen had on the baby.
So far, however, the little girl's prognosis looks positive, her mother explained.
After receiving so many blessings and the support of countless strangers, Stevenson-Wilson said her family believes it would be wrong to harbor anger toward Miranda.
"We feel that an additional miracle that has been received is that we have never had any negative feelings," she said.