The text-messaging motorist who struck and killed his former high school teacher told the court: “This was not intentional. It was an accident. I'm so sorry.”
Clark County (Vancouver, Washington) Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett didn't buy it.
“I've heard the term 'accident' used quite a bit today. But this was no accident.”
He then sentenced Antonio Cellestine, 18, to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and felony hit and run.
Observers say this was Washington state's first vehicular homicide conviction based on text-messaging. Washington is one of 19 states where it's illegal to text-message while driving.
When police tracked down Cellestine after the hit-and-run, they seized his cellphone as evidence and subpeoned cellphone records from his provider, according to The Columbian. Evidence that he'd been texting at the time of the collision prompted prosecutors to conclude he was driving in disregard of the safety of others and filed the vehicular homicide charges.
Prosecutors told The Columbian newspaper that this was the first time that they knew of texting used in vehicular homicide charges.
The widow of Gordon Patterson, the 50-year-old teacher who was killed as he rode his bicycle home from school, spoke in court on Friday.
“Hi, I’m Carrie Patterson, Gordon Patterson’s wife. We were married 23 years. But a distraction on a text message caused us his death. He was our family's sole breadwinner. I'm now widowed. A single parent of three children. On public assistance.”