Kenneth Jenkins, age 33, of Florida just received the stiffest sentence possible for driving drunk in 2008, a drive that ended with the death of three persons. His response? He blames his lawyers.
Jenkins was driving his car on I-95 freeway when he collided head on with a Mercedes carrying Boris Rappaport, age 54, Rappaport’s mother, Renee, age 78, Renee’s boyfriend, Robert Rutman, age 83, and Angelina Pagliuca, age 58. Ms. Pagliuca survived the crash.
His blood alcohol reading was .182, more than twice Florida’s legal limit. Despite evidence that he was the wrong-way driver, his lawyers attempted to prove that it was the Mercedes that was in the wrong. During the sentencing hearing last week, Jenkins told the court that he wanted to accept the blame but his lawyers pursued that strategy and that he trusted his lawyers. He testified that he had no memory of the accident.
But Jenkins’ “nail in the coffin” was a video taken by a private investigator hired by one of the deceased’s relatives, handed over to the court, and viewed by the judge reviewing the sentence imposed at the urging of Jenkins’ new lawyers. The video was taken just before the sentencing hearing and showed Jenkins, out on bail, playing “beer pong” at a local bar. Judge Charles Burton said:
” engaging in a drinking game on the eve of sentencing is a slap in the face and an affront to the victims and their survivors and friends.”
Jenkins’ lawyers suggested to the Court that if it were not for his previous lawyers delaying the resolution of his case, he would not have had an opportunity to play beer pong and that by not pursuing an early guilty plea, they prejudiced Mr. Jenkins.
Judge Burton was not impressed with the suggestion that Jenkins had been let down by his previous counsel saying:
“the trial lawyers conducted themselves professionally and competently by investigating the case, especially in light of the fact that there were two witnesses who suggested that the victims were going in the wrong direction.”
Florida State sentencing guidelines call for a minimum of 32 years, 10 1/2 months in prison and a maximum life term. Judge Richard Oftedal, the original sentencing judge, could have justified a sentence going below the minimum but declined.
The Florida Department of Corrections reports that inmates typically serve about 85% of their sentence before they are paroled.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang