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On the well-heeled island of Key Biscayne, the Porsche accelerated to over 100 mph, police said. The car plowed into a pole, skidding the length of a football field and killing the passenger – a college freshman home in South Florida for the holidays.
For the crime, the teen behind the wheel is now going to pay with four years of his life.
A Miami-Dade judge on Friday sentenced Isaias Medina, 19, to four years in prison, plus one year of house arrest and 10 years of probation.
“I know you will have to live with this forever,” Circuit Judge Ivonne Curesta told Medina during a emotional sentencing hearing on Friday.
The sentence was handed down hours after Medina pleaded guilty for the crash that killed Daniela Benavides, 18, a freshman at Pepperdine University in Southern California. The accident happened on New Year’s morning in 2016, as Medina was giving Benavides a ride home after a party.
“I only knew Daniela for a short time, but I know there was a light inside of her and that is something the world is missing,” Medina said in a tearful speech during the hearing. “She had a beautiful soul, full of joy.”
Benavides also hailed from Key Biscayne and had graduated from Gulliver Preparatory School. Also injured in the crash was Mathew Saldana, then 17, who suffered head injuries but survived.
Medina pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. He was 17 at the time of the crash and a student at the private school Columbus High. He did not have a driver’s license and had ingested marijuana and Xanax, although he was not charged with driving under the influence because investigators could not prove when he took the drugs.
Wide disparities in sentences for traffic deaths have come under scrutiny across South Florida. Last week, a Miami-Dade judge sentenced another young driver to seven years in prison for the hit-and-run death of a federal agent on South Beach.
In Medina’s case, the judge had wide latitude for a possible sentence. The teen faced up to 25 years behind bars but could have also gotten just probation.
Defense lawyers David O. Markus and Margot Moss had hoped Medina would get 364 days in jail, plus entry into Miami-Dade County’s lauded boot camp program for young offenders.
They pointed to Medina’s troubled family life, despite living a privileged life on Key Biscayne. Medina’s biological father abandoned him growing up and his stepfather later shot his mother and then killed himself, the court heard on Friday.
The traffic crash was a tragic mistake, Markus said.
“It was an accident. There was no planning involved. There was no intent involved. There was no drinking involved,” Markus told the judge.
But Benavides family thought boot camp was too lenient for taking Benavides’ life.
“She was beautiful. She was smart. She was positive. She was energetic and full of life,” said her stepfather, Karl Lippert.