Kent man sentenced to six years, eight months in prison for Panther Lake vehicular homicide
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
March 22, 2013 · 4:56 PM
A 19-year-old Kent man received a sentence Friday of six years, eight months in prison for the vehicular homicide death of motorcyclist David Daniel, 56, last August in a Panther Lake neighborhood.
Justin Jerald Cordova, a former Kentridge High School football player, pleaded guilty in December to the charge. He could have been sentenced up to 8 years, six months under a new state law that took effect in June to stiffen the penalty for vehicular homicide.
"I know my actions cost you something that can never be replaced and that from the bottom of my heart I'm sorry," Cordova said in a letter he read in King County Superior Court in Kent to the family of David Daniel. "You don't know what I would do to go back and not get behind the wheel. I wish I could take back everything I did. I know as you're going through so much pain I'm sorry for all my actions because I know the pain of losing a loved one. Two years ago, my mom passed away. You lost a piece of your heart and your life."
Prosecutors said Cordova, who lived about one-half mile from David Daniel, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent and traveled at high speed of about 50 mph when his Nissan coupe smashed into Daniel's motorcycle along Southeast 223rd Drive. The posted speed is 25 mph in the residential neighborhood.
Cordova, who was 18 at the date of the accident, told Kent Police officers that he had been drinking Red Bull and Jaegermeister at about 11 the previous night. He said he was going about 45 mph and didn't see the motorcycle. Cordova submitted to a portable breath test that indicated a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, above the 0.02 level to cite a minor for a DUI and the 0.08 level for adults.
Relatives of Daniel asked Judge Carol Schapira to impose the maximum sentence.
"Justin is having to learn a hard lesson but one he needs to learn from," said Linda Daniel, the wife of David, as she read a letter in court. "Justin
is not at a level of maturity where I feel he could be a good member of society. I feel if Justin is allowed to remain in jail for the maximum possible time, upon release he would be at the level of maturity to make positive decisions and be a productive member of the community… I believe if Justin is allowed the lighter sentence, he would be a disservice to the community."
Schapira called it "a terribly emotional day" for everyone involved. Prosecutor Amy Freedheim and defense attorney Brian Beattie agreed to a recommendation to the judge of six years, six months in prison because of Cordova's guilty plea and that he took responsibility for the homicide.
"The court is not bound by the agreement but I do respect that a lot of work went into reaching the agreement," Schapira. "The court is going to impose 80 months, that's a little bit above the bottom of the range but is below the midpoint. I think Mr. Cordova has shown genuine remorse. The standard range does reflect that he doesn't have any felonies and he did precede through treatment."
Cordova will receive credit for the 211 days served in the county jail since his arrest.
Jim Cordova, who adopted Justin as a young boy, told the court his son has deep regret.
"He's shown nothing but remorse," Jim Cordova said. "He is burdened by the pain afflicted on the Daniel family. He has owned up to his responsibilities."
Jim Cordova said he's certainly sorry for the loss suffered by the Daniel family.
"I will not presume to say I know how they feel," Jim Cordova said. "I can only imagine what my kids would feel if I was killed by a drunk driver."
Daughter Sarah Daniel summarized some of what the family has endured since that fateful morning of Aug. 22.
"We are grateful that my father lived 56 years," Sarah Daniel said. "He had a loving wife who was his best friend and a high school sweetheart. They would have celebrated their 36th anniversary. He had three wonderful children, three amazing grandchildren and countless friends.
"But there's one thing that he will never be able to do and that's walk me down the aisle for my wedding in October."
Daughter Anne Daniel told the court how much her father meant to her.
"My mom and dad were my best friends and every day I wait for my dad to come home and every day I'm sad that he can't," Anne Daniel email@example.com or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.