The Columbian was at the sentencing hearing for Antonio Cellestine at the Clark County Courthouse in Vancouver today. According to their report, Cellestine was sentenced to 5 years in prison for driving his car into 50-year old Gordon Patterson back in September. A commenter who was at the hearing today, said Cellestine’s attorney plea bargained with the judge to not have the offense become his client’s first strike.
The Columbian also reports that court documents reveal Cellestine was texting at the time of the collision. According to KGW, Cellestine, who was 18 when the crash occurred, was driving with a suspended license at the time of the crash and his record includes two instances of driving with a suspended license, as well as driving without insurance.
In court today, Cellestine was quoted in The Columbian as saying:
“I feel no one knows how I really feel deep down inside and how I feel about things… This was not intentional; this was an accident…He (Patterson) will always have a special place in my heart.”
This tragic chain of events comes as the U.S. Department of Transportation has ratcheted up their focus on distracted driving and one week after The Oprah Winfrey Show featured victims of distracted driving on her show. It will take a lot more than snazzy slogans and some PR to deal with the issues this case so readily illustrates.
On that note, here’s a comment left below by a former transportation planner for the City of Vancouver that I felt was worth more attention:
“Sadly … this is a case influenced by what must be the very low regard that our law enforcement authorities and political leadership place on motor vehicle operators being certified and insured. There is a too common problem – motor vehicle operation on public streets is not a right but a responsibility…
… A plea to our state legislators this session…please make it less easy to buy insurance in order to get license tags and then cancel the account…
Another related legislative issue would be to strengthen the state law about cell phone/texting use [aka distracted driving].
As a bicyclist who has not owned a car for 22 years – this case and many too similar makes me wonder if I need to start driving again for more protection.”