- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
An emotional early afternoon in court Thursday ended in an 18-month sentence for a Fort Washington man convicted of two counts of negligent manslaughter.
Circuit Judge Amy Bragunier sentenced Yuri Marie Francois Vielot Jr., 27, to serve time at the Charles County jail for the 2010 deaths of Marlon Lorenzo and Erick Alvarado, two Maryland State Highway Administration contractors. The two were killed Oct. 21 that year after Vielot fell asleep at the wheel of his 2004 Volkswagen SUV, leading him to cross the median at the intersection of routes 228 and 229 and run into the men.
At the time of the accident, Vielot did not have a valid driver’s license but a learner’s permit. He had gotten two hours of sleep the night before and was driving to bring food to his fiancee, who is now his wife.
Vielot’s conviction came as the result of a second trial this September. A July 2012 trial resulted in a hung jury.
Much of Vielot’s family sat in the courtroom, along with family and friends of Lorenzo’s. As both sides testified to Bragunier about their respective loved ones, tears flowed.
Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis J. Granados said the court had lost contact with the bulk of Alvarado’s family but read a letter from his sister. Alvarado, Granados said, was just 24 at the time of his death and had been working in the United States for about four or five years after moving here from El Salvador. Alvarado regularly sent money to his family in Central America.
Speaking through a translator, Lorenzo’s sister, Anna Chajon Lorenzo, said her brother had lived with her in the U.S. for about five years after moving here from Guatemala.
“When I decided for him to come here and he made the decision, he was a young man, very eager to work hard and go to school,” Anna Chajon Lorenzo said of her brother, who was 28 at the time of his death. “He was great company to me. ... Up until now, my daughter has not been able to recover from his loss. I was so greatly impacted by this, and we believe in justice here on earth and before God. Three years have gone by, but to me it’s as if it happened yesterday. ... Now I know there’s going to be closure to this. We’re not a family who’s vindictive. We know [Vielot’s] family is suffering, too, and we pray for God to bless them.”
“There’s a tendency to think of driving as a right, and it’s not. It’s a privilege. ... Driving is a dangerous act, even if we do it every day,” Granados said. “Are we going to say getting his wife some TGI Friday’s french fries is worth the lives of two young men? It’s not. ... That does not trump his duty to the community. He placed the wants and needs of him and his family above that of the community. As I told the jury ... good people can do stupid, careless, reckless things. He killed two people.”
Granados said because Vielot’s accident claimed two lives instead of one, the range for his sentence is between three and 16 years. Granados asked for a sentence firmly in the middle of that range.
“[Vielot] should have never been behind the wheel of a car by himself in the first place,” Granados said. “If he hadn’t been, Erick and Marlon would still be alive. Their families would still have them.”
Defense attorney Robin Ficker said five letters had been written on Vielot’s behalf, and even more members of his family spoke on his behalf, including several aunts-in-law, his mother and grandmother. Karen Jackson, Vielot’s mother, recalled that day clearly.
“He called me at work, and all that he could say was ‘Mom, I killed two people.’ It devastated him so much,” Jackson said through tears. “He didn’t know what to do. [Lorenzo and Alvarado] can’t be brought back. ... I put myself and my child at the mercy of the court. ... When things go wrong, we do have to suffer the consequences.”
“His immediate reaction was remorse, no defiance ... and that’s what it’s been since,” Ficker said. “[Vielot] would take it back, but he can’t. I don’t think it would be slapping anyone in the face to go below the guidelines.”
Vielot turned to Lorenzo’s family as he spoke.
“I know I took family and friends from you, but please don’t take me from mine,” Vielot said. “They don’t have anyone else. I just ask for you to forgive me.”
Bragunier said the guilt Vielot will have to live with forever is a significant punishment, but imprisonment still is merited.
“It’s a tragic, tragic accident. To the families ... I can’t begin to imagine the pain you’ve suffered,” Bragunier said. “Mr. Vielot is a good man. He did not intentionally hurt them ... but two people are dead, and he will have to suffer the consequences.”
Vielot received a 10-year sentence with all but 18 months suspended on both counts to be served concurrently. Vielot will be allowed out on work release and will be on supervised probation for five years following his release.