ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A drunken driver responsible for a 2009 crash that killed her close friend and seriously injured soccer star Charlie Davies was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, despite pleas from the heartbroken parents of one of the victims for a harsher sentence.

Maria Alejandra Espinoza, 23, of Clarksville, Md., tearfully apologized for her actions during a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. She pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter for the death of passenger Ashley Roberta, 22, of Phoenix, Md.

“I’m not a bad person but I made a bad choice,” Espinoza said. “I should have shared the same fate as Ashley, if not traded places with her.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of three to four years, which would have been in line with federal sentencing guidelines.

Roberta’s parents asked the judge for the maximum sentence. Mike Roberta sobbed throughout his statement to the court.

“As a dad, you feel responsible for your child. I think I failed her,” Roberta said.

The father said he worries constantly about the safety of his other child and lamented that he will not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.

“I always wanted to give her away to someone better than me,” Roberta said.

Mother Jan Roberta described her life as “a nightmare I never wake from” as she glared at Espinoza.

“Ashley was killed because of her (Espinoza’s) drunken, gross negligence, reckless driving,” she said.

In a phone interview after the sentencing, Jan Roberta said she was unmoved by Espinoza’s apology. “I think she feels bad for herself, honestly,” she said.

Ashley Roberta, a University of Maryland graduate, was preparing to enroll in law school when she was killed. “She sparkled. She was the ‘it’ girl,” her mother said. “She would have made such a difference.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosanne Haney asked the judge to consider the fact that, after pleading guilty last year, Espinoza was out in public drinking shots of liquor and was drunk on at least three separate occasions, even though she was under a court order to refrain from alcohol.

The public drinking “causes us to question the sincerity of her contrition,” Haney said. “A drunken driving offense should be a wakeup call to an offender.”

Prosecutors said Espinoza was legally intoxicated as she drove Davies and Ashley Roberta on the George Washington Parkway, a federal roadway, on their way back to Davies’ hotel from a night club on Oct. 13, 2009. As she fiddled with her GPS system to navigate the unfamiliar road, she drove off the parkway and crashed with such force that Espinoza’s Infiniti sedan was split in two. Roberta was pronounced dead at the scene. Davies was pinned in the rear passenger seat with life threatening injuries.

Davies, now a member of DC United, missed the 2010 World Cup as he recovered from his injuries, which included a ruptured bladder, a broken, leg, arm and ribs as well as facial fractures.

Davies did not attend Friday’s hearing but his lawyer, Jon Pels, read a statement in which Davies deferred to the Roberta family’s wishes on Espinoza’s sentence.

“My injuries, no matter how severe, pale in comparison to the death of Ashley Roberta,” Davies said in the statement.

Davies had known both women for several months. In a radio interview earlier this week, Davies said he had forgiven Espinoza. After Friday’s hearing, Pels said, “Charlie can forgive, but the forgiveness comes with an asterisk, because he really does suffer for the parents of Ms. Roberta.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (8)
  1. whatnow says:

    This woman should be punished but how drunk do you have to be to get in a car with a drunk driver?

    1. Michelle Kemp says:

      I totally agree. Yes she was wrong for chosing to get behind the wheel after drinking, however, you cannot tell me that they weren’t drinking with her and knew that she was intoxicated. Lets all take responsibility for our own actions and responsibility for our own decisions.

  2. lessons not learned says:

    I lost my 3 year old nephew yrs ago to a under age drunk female driver,my nephew was killed instantly while he played in his own back yard she was driving fast and lost control of the car she jumped the curb and came up the hill in the yard and hit him,the car kept going after it hit him,the only thing that stopped the car was the tree that she hit,the driver and the passengers were not injured at all,she did 15 months in jail for taking a childs life,the other girls with her were drunk as well and to show how some people never learn a lesson one of the passengers was killed three months later driving with another drunk driver,I understand people make horrible mistakes but if I am out drinking with friends and I choose to drive with them full well knowing we all are drunk then in my eyes I am just as responsible as they are for making a decision to drive with them,you are right everyone needs to take responsibility here

  3. Baltimorebob says:

    It is a shame that this happened but there should be a strong lesson to learn hear stop drinking and drivering people

  4. Bernard Mc Kernan says:

    The a….holes get behind the wheel because it won’t happen to them. As a matter of fact they don’t even think about it or give a rat’s ass. That’s part of the reason they’re drunk to begin with. They have little self confidence & need to get high on booze or drugs to have a good time. Put her in jail for a minimum of ten years. She took a life!

  5. pitythefool says:

    Perhaps she should have had to dig the grave of her “friend” and take care of her other “friend” that she injured. After that she should be thrown in jail for at least 10 years and see how it feels to have everything taken from you.. But her parents can still visit her in jail. How can a judge basically say that the life of a human being is only worth 2 years? Perhaps if the same happened to a family member of his, he would think differently. I guarantee she will be out drinking again soon. You will answer to your maker in the end Maria.

  6. ktsmith says:

    Sorry for the all the people involved in this horrific crash. However, personal responsibility should also be considered. Any of those in the vehicle could have been the driver. As close friends they all knew they were getting in a vehicle with someone who had been consuming alcohol and made a bad decision that ended tragically.

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