Friday, September 26, 2008

US Teen Pleads Guilty After Crash Injured Friends


SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. -- An Upstate teenager is headed to prison after pleading guilty to two counts of DUI resulting in great bodily injury, but alcohol was not involved.
Heather Hewitt was accused of crashing her car after huffing keyboard cleaner, Spartanburg County police said.
Five friends were passengers in the car that Hewitt was driving, and two of them were critically injured, police said.
Prosecutors said Maranda Poteat will never see through her left eye, and Jamie Maxwell, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, can't talk and is only semi-conscious.
Both girls were passengers in the Toyota Camry Hewitt was driving on a Sunday in September 2007.
"She cannot feed herself. She cannot take care of herself," Maxwell's mother, Pam Maxwell, told the judge.
She said her family is left with almost $700,000 in medical bills so far, and she said she wants Hewitt to be held responsible.
"I don't hate her," Maxwell said "I feel sorry for her because she doesn't value life."
Hewitt entered an Alford plea of guilty, which is an admission that she could be proven guilty in a trial.
Hoping for leniency, her attorneys said she is also a victim because one of her friends in that car gave her the keyboard duster.
Half the courtroom was filled with supporters of Hewitt, and they spoke to the judge about her character, saying she never set out to do any harm.
"She regrets everything that happened every day," Hewitt's boyfriend, Josh Robinson, told the judge.
Sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, Hewitt will be turned over to the state Department of Corrections and will serve up to six years.
"This has been extremely difficult for her. It's not something she planned on or wanted to happen. It was unfortunate, and we're sad for all involved," Hewitt's third cousin said.
"I wish we could send a message to folks: Any kind of inhalant, drugs or alcohol -- they need to know what ramifications they have," Spartanburg County Principal Deputy Solicitor Barry Barnette said.
The defense brought up questions over whether the duster should actually be considered a drug and whether it meets the statute for felony DUI.
Barnette said this may be the first case of its kind in South Carolina, and his office will prosecute any case like this in the future, he said.
taken from Fox Carolina