MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Jessica Araujo smiled through her tears at friends and family as she came to a Miami-Dade courtroom to learn her punishment for DUI manslaughter.
The widow of the man she killed wept, as well.
Araujo, now 26, was blind drunk last April when she blew a light in Southwest Miami-Dade and T-boned a Toyota, killing 48-year-old Naji El-Kadi, who was on his way to work.
Araujo apologized to her victim’s family Friday.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I have caused your family. I am sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family and everybody that cares about me,“ she said.
Her attorney asked the judge for leniency, to sentence Araujo to less than the minimum state guidelines require.
“I think she can make a difference, but she can’t make it in prison, Judge,“ attorney Justin Beckham said.
A cousin spoke up for Araujo, saying he knows the pain she has inflicted because he is a friend of Javier Perez, the popular high school principal who lost both legs to a drunk driver who ran him over on a baseball field.
“I witnessed first-hand a reckless driver veer off the road and crash into a dear friend of mine,“ said Andres Rodriguez, struggling to control his emotion. “His legs were amputated from the knee down.“
Friends described Araujo as someone who struggled with addiction and has since overcome it, saying she is a good person with a good heart.
Assistant State Attorney Benjamin Gellis said Araujo showed her true character the night she was arrested last year, with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, high on pot, and with cocaine in her car, cursing police and hospital workers.
Judge Richard Hersch told Araujo he understands the regret she feels, and the efforts she has made to atone for her behavior.
“I do not doubt for a second your remorse and how you feel right now,“ the judge told Araujo. Hersch refused, however, to depart from the minimum sentencing guidelines. He gave her 10 1/2 years in prison to be followed by nine years of probation.
The defense was disappointed. The prosecution was resigned.
“To get behind the wheel and drive, drunk and high, has caused this tragedy that never should have happened,“ said Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for the state attorneys office.
As part of her probation, Araujo must serve 500 hours of community service and attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Her victim’s widow spoke only briefly as she passed by reporters, saying she was satisfied with the sentence.