SAN DIEGO -- A 16-year-old boy who raced another young motorist on state Route 52, causing a rollover crash that killed two of his passengers, was sentenced Monday to a year in custody at a Juvenile facility in Campo.
The boy, who was a junior at Santana High School in Santee at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter resulting in death in connection with the April 4 double fatality on state Route 52.
If he follows court orders and stays out of trouble, the teen could be back home in six months and off probation in a year.
If he violates probation, the minor could be kept in custody for up to seven years and four months and remain on probation until he's 21, said prosecutor Minaz Bhayani. Judge Browder Willis told a Juvenile Court audience that unlike adult court, where the focus is on punishment, the goal in Juvenile Court is rehabilitation. "Your reality is that you have to do some work,'' the judge told the boy. "It (the incident) is not the measure of you.''
Willis told the teen to write a letter of apology to both victims' families and to prepare to speak to young people about the mistakes he's made.
Speaking of the deaths he caused, the judge told the youth, "You've got to carry that around with you.''
Before he was sentenced, the 16-year-old apologized for his actions.
"I'd just like to say that I'm sorry,'' the boy said. "I never meant for anything to happen. If I could exchange my life for someone else, I would.''
Outside the courtroom, the teenager's attorney expressed hope his client can turn his young life around.
"This is obviously a wake-up call to him," said attorney Jim Dicks, "I'm not suggesting he's going to grow up and cure cancer, but he's going to be a productive member of our society."
Authorities said the boy and an 18-year-old motorist, Michael S. Johnson, were racing at speeds up to 100 mph on eastbound state Route 52 when the younger driver lost control of his Volkswagen Passat and crashed, killing 16-year-old Jayli Campbell and 18-year-old Anthony Foreman.
The boy's 15-year-old girlfriend, who was a passenger in the Passat, suffered a serious brain injury and spent five days in a coma, but survived. Another passenger was seriously injured.
The late-night crash occurred as the youths were all headed home to East County from a spring break beach party in La Jolla.
Defense attorney James Dicks said at the 16-year-old's arraignment that his client had not been racing that day. He said the accelerator on the Passat stuck as the boy tried to pass another vehicle and that he committed no intentional act which led to the deaths and injuries in the case.
Bhayani countered that an inspection of the Passat showed no defect with the accelerator. The prosecutor also noted that the 16-year-old was ticketed for driving 90 mph on state Route 125 in February and also cited for having passengers in his car before he was supposed to.
Theresa Campbell said the defendant never should have been behind the wheel the night of the deadly crash.
"I lost my son because of a race,'' she said.
Jayli's father wasn't happy with the length of the custodial sentence. He said the 16-year-old driver should have received a year in custody for each death.
"I just feel it wasn't right, for two people,'' Robert Campbell said. "For a young kid who's 16 years old, the parents are totally responsible for his actions.''
Campbell's attorney Fred Cohen said the victim's families are planning to sue the boy and his parents.
Johnson was also charged in the deaths. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and other counts. His trial is set for September.