Jefferson Jeupe Laureano was sentenced to 16 months in prison Wednesday for causing death by careless driving on Cayman Brac last year.
Raoul Muhammed Scott, 19, died on Jan. 9, 2015, after a vehicle driven by Laureano, 22, collided with his car.
Crown counsel Nicole Petit began the hearing in Grand Court by advising Justice Malcolm Swift that Laureano had also been charged with causing death by dangerous driving; he had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of death by careless driving in January and the Crown accepted the plea.
Both charges were laid after Laureano’s car collided with the rear of the car driven by Mr. Scott. The incident occurred along Dennis Foster Road after 11 p.m. on Jan. 9.
Ms. Petit said three cars were traveling in a convoy, with Laureano in the lead car, a white Honda Civic. A red Honda Civic, driven by Mr. Scott, overtook all three cars at a high speed. Laureano then sped up in a manner that suggested he wanted to catch up with the other car.
Accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters concluded that Laureano had carried out an unsafe overtaking maneuver, in that he drove too close to Mr. Scott’s car and he was traveling at a speed no less than 72.6 mph. The speed limit in that area is 40 mph.
Another accident reconstructionist, Colin Redden, agreed that the collision was the result of excessive speed. He also concluded that the driver’s seat of Laureano’s car was reclined to the extent that he would not have had proper control of the vehicle and would have had limited view of the road.
Justice Swift pointed out that the maximum sentence in Cayman for causing death by careless driving is seven years.
The judge said there are three categories within the general definition of causing death by careless driving: cases falling not far short of dangerous driving; other cases of careless or inconsiderate driving; cases involving momentary inattention with no aggravating features.
“A person has died – and yet, if there had been no death, the sentence for careless driving would have been non-custodial. The results of the offending drive the level of sentence,” he said.
Justice Swift referred to Laureano’s interview with police on Sept. 11, 2015. The defendant said that as Mr. Scott’s vehicle passed his, it threw up pebbles that hit his car. Laureano was convinced that Mr. Scott was issuing a challenge to race.
However, Laureano said, he was determined not to race and did not need to because “my car is basically one of the high-performance VTEC single up here in Cayman Brac.”
The judge interpreted this as meaning that Laureano “was not humiliated at being overtaken by an inferior vehicle and was not provoked into any exhibition of retaliatory driving.”
Justice Swift said he had to put out of his mind any suspicion that this was a blatant case of car-racing. If it had been, the correct charge would have been causing death by dangerous driving and the Crown would not have accepted the plea to the lesser charge.
The judge determined that this was “an intermediate case of careless driving based upon the overtaking when it was unsafe to do so due to the proximity of the car being overtaken.”
He noted that the speed was almost twice the legal limit.
Defense attorney Nicholas Dixey had emphasized Laureano’s remorse, his empathy for the victim’s family, the effect on his own family and the fact that Mr. Scott had been his friend. He had suggested a sentence of community service, so that Laureano could speak to others about not falling into the trap of driving poorly.
Justice Swift said the aggravating factors easily outweighed the mitigating factors.
The aggravating factors included a previous conviction for careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident in 2012. He also noted that a passenger in one of the cars had sustained a broken bone in one hand and an injury to the head that required stitches.
He added that he had read the victim impact statement, “which makes clear what a tragedy this has been for the Scott family – a sound, close-knit Christian family, devastated by the loss of the deceased. Their lives will never be the same again,” he said.
Justice Swift said he had also read a statement by Laureano’s sister that he described as heart-breaking. A statement from his parents showed that his family was also devastated by this tragedy.
Fixing the appropriate sentence at two years, the judge allowed a full one-third discount for the guilty plea, arriving at 16 months. He ordered three years disqualification starting that day and recommended that Laureano again pass a driving test before his license is restored.