BRECKENRIDGE - Judge Mark Thompson sentenced Wesley Wilson, the driver who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide after he hit and killed a pedestrian on a Keystone crosswalk in March, to six years in community corrections Friday.
Wilson, 20, was found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the crash that killed 33-year-old Mircea Basaram, of Romania, on Saint Patrick's Day.
"In the eyes of this court justice is best reflected in compassion," Thompson said before delivering the sentence. "There is a need for punishment, but there is also a need for restoration."
A pre-sentencing investigation and prosecutor Anne Francis called for Wilson to receive an eight-year prison sentence.
Community corrections is a program under the umbrella of the Department of Corrections, which restricts freedom, but does not put offenders behind bars. The facilities combine counseling, family member support and a system of incentive-based privileges to reintegrate offenders into the community.
The sentencing followed nearly four hours of testimony from Wilson's friends and family, arguments from the attorneys, Wilson's own statements about the incident and the comments of Basaram's mother, who addressed the court with the help of a translator via Skype from Romania.
"I should have never got into my car that day," Wilson said during his allocution. "I never should have decided to drink that day, and I have to pay for that."
In asking for a reduced sentence, Wilson's attorney, J.B. Katz, noted that he stopped immediately after hitting Basaram, got out of the car and attempted to help him and cooperated with the police investigation.
Wilson's family called him a loving person, and described his grief and guilt over the incident.
Wilson has no previous adult criminal
Maria Basaram told the court her son was a handsome, athletic young man who had plenty of friends, but did not drink alcohol or use marijuana.
"Nobody can appreciate the pain in my soul," she said. "If Wesley wouldn't have been drunk while driving, that stupid accident wouldn't have happened and Mircea would have arrived home."
Both sides also talked about the design flaws of the crosswalk where Wilson hit Basaram, which crossed a four-lane highway with a 45-mph speed limit but had only limited markings to warn drivers to watch for pedestrians. Locals have reportedly complained about the intersection for years.
Since the accident that killed Basaram, the Colorado Department of Transportation has undertaken a series of improvements to make the crosswalk more visible to drivers.
Thompson, who himself became emotional as he was making his final statements, said the case was "without question the most difficult" he had faced.
"Nothing this court can say or do will assign enough value to Mircea's life," Thompson said. "That value rests in the memories that Mrs. Basaram must carry. And, perhaps more importantly, that value rests in the hands of Mr. Wilson. On March 17, you unknowingly held Mircea's life in your hands. Today, you hold the value of his life. Mr. Wilson, you must give that value new life to do something, to bring some meaning to this tragedy. By your actions you have lost your right to be free, but you have not lost your humanity, your dignity or your hope."
Mircea Basaram was raised the only child of a single mother. His father was also killed in a motor-vehicle accident when he was 5 years old.
He had recently completed law school in Romania. He had taken a job as a steward on a cruise ship and was visiting Keystone to ski as part of a world tour. He planned to return to Romania a few days later and begin practicing law.