Double road fatality draws 5-year sentence

‘Stand up,’ Justice Nigel Meeson told Jerome Earle Bodden Monday before sentencing him to five years imprisonment for causing two deaths by dangerous driving.

Cayman law sets a maximum of 10 years for the offence. The judge listed factors he considered in reaching the five-year mark, including speed in excess of 100pmh and driving without insurance.

The judge also said Bodden deliberately exaggerated his injuries from the accident in hope of avoiding a prison sentence and used a wheelchair as a cosmetic device to attract sympathy.

Crown Counsel Nicola Moore told the court Friday that Northward Prison would not accept anyone confined to a wheelchair. She also advised that police had seen Bodden, now 23, walking unaided and without favouring is injured leg.

Ms Moore said the Crown did not accept his alleged level of disability. His mental functioning is within the high normal range, she added.

Justice Meeson said he had seen the results of covert surveillance conducted last month. He commended the police for exposing Bodden’s cowardly deception.

He said the cynical and calculated conduct did not set easily with the expression of remorse in Bodden’s letter to the court. It suggested he was more concerned with his own position than with the deaths he caused and the misery inflicted on the families of the deceased.

Iliana De La Cruz, 18, was a passenger in the car Bodden was driving. She died at the scene. Angelo Luciano, 22, who was riding in the back of the truck Bodden collided with, died two days later.

The incident occurred around 7.30am on Saturday, 11 March, 2006.

Bodden took his mother’s Honda Integra without her permission. Because he was 21 and not named on her policy, he was uninsured.

As he drove east along Shamrock Road, he was seen overtaking in the right turn lane and switching lanes. As he passed the Red Bay Esso station, the vehicle was captured on closed circuit TV. Later an accident reconstructionist was able to calculate that Bodden had been driving at 95.77 mph in the 40mph zone.

As he approached the left-hand bend near the Seafarers Association Building, he must have partially lost control, Ms Moore said. The maximum speed at which that bend could be negotiated was 82 mph. The reconstructionist calculated Bodden’s speed at the point of impact to be between 102 and 112 mph.

The impact was with a truck that had pulled onto the nearside of the road to drop off a passenger. The passenger was waiting to cross the westbound lane of traffic as Bodden came around the bend. He swerved to avoid her and hit the truck.

No brakes were applied and the car travelled three feet seven inches under the truck. The truck had its parking brake on and was shunted 51 feet after the impact.

Neither Bodden nor Ms De La Cruz was wearing a seatbelt.

Ms Moore read victim impact statements on Friday. Mr. Luciano had been sending money to his family in the Philippines. Apart from their grief from losing him, the loss of income had affected the ability to provide medical supplies for his mother and handicapped brother.

The death of Ms De la Cruz, who had reigned as Miss Teen Cayman Islands 2004-05, also had a devastating effect on her family. Her grandfather had lost 87 pounds and could not speak of his grief. Another family member had been in counselling and her blood pressure was affected.

Justice Meeson quoted Iliana’s mother. She hoped other young people, especially young men who are speeding on Cayman’s roads, would remember this case and realise their actions can cause grief to the families of victims. That grief will last the entire lives of family members. Drivers cannot believe they are invincible and not care about their passengers or other road users, the mother said.

Because Bodden was uninsured, the damage caused by him was uncompensated.

He called the dangerous driving an act of madness that was aggressive, deliberate and persistent. It had resulted in two deaths, and it was fortunate that the woman who left the truck and another man in the back were not also killed.

Mitigating factors for Bodden included his age, lack of previous convictions, his injuries, expression of remorse and character references. But the effect of these had been reduced by Bodden’s exaggeration of his injuries.

Those had been detailed by Defence Attorney Ben Tonner, who submitted medical evidence showing Bodden had lost his right eye and some of the frontal lobe of his brain. He had broken all the bones in his face and some vertebrae in his neck. His left leg was crushed.

Mr. Tonner agreed that deterring other would-be offenders was an important part of sentencing. ‘What better deterrent than to look at the facial disfigurement of Mr. Bodden?’ he asked. ‘He is going to have to live with this for the rest of his life.’

He agreed that his client had been seen walking unaided. He compared the situation to someone with a broken arm who uses the arm around the house in an effort to strengthen it. But when such a person goes out in public he uses a sling to protect the arm.

The attorney asked the court to consider the effect of Ms De La Cruz’s death on Bodden: they had known each other since primary school and had been in a relationship since early 2005. Since her death there has been a very difficult relationship between the families.

Justice Meeson indicated he had taken all of this into account. He determined seven and a half years to be the starting point for sentencing. The practice in Cayman has been to allow one-third discount for a guilty plea. But in the UK, if the evidence is overwhelming against someone, a discount of 20 per cent might be more appropriate.

In his opinion, this was sensible and ought to be adopted in Cayman. In the absence of any guidance from the court of appeal or the Chief Justice, however, he did not consider it appropriate to depart from the one-third.

On that basis he reached a sentence of five years for each count, the sentences to run concurrently. After Bodden’s release from prison he will be disqualified from driving for seven years to protect the public.