Maybe it was the victim: a 17-year-old Franklin Pierce High School senior well-liked by virtually everyone who knew him and adored by his family.
Maybe it was the circumstances of Quinnton Dimmitt’s death: He was out buying his mom a mocha at 7 o’clock on a Friday morning when a drunken driver going upwards of 90 miles per hour collided with his car.
Maybe it was the fact that such cases come through Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson’s courtroom too often.
Whatever the reason, Cuthbertson was not in the mood Thursday to give Miguel Angel Argueta, who’d just pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in Dimmitt’s death, a break.
The judge rejected the low-end sentencing recommendation negotiated between Deputy Prosecutor Tim Jones and defense lawyer Aaron Talney and handed the 26-year-old man the maximum sentence instead: 12 years, three months in state prison.
“You said if there was anything you could do to change things, you would,” the Cuthbertson said to Argueta before imposing the sentence, which was three years more than the negotiated term. “Today you are, because I’m not going to follow the recommendation.
“I’m going to use Quinnton’s loss and your conviction as an opportunity to send a message that hopefully some or many young people will learn from. And that message is: If you drink and drive and kill somebody in Pierce County, you’re going to serve the maximum sentence.”
Cuthbertson’s decision came after an emotional hearing in which Dimmitt’s mother, father, sister and girlfriend addressed the court. They called the teenager a doting son, a good student, an attentive boyfriend, a supportive sibling, “a bright light.”
“My son taught me to be a better person. I find that funny,” the teen’s father, Michael Dimmitt, told Cuthbertson. “I’m the dad. I’m supposed to teach him things.”
Michael Dimmitt went on to say his son’s death left his family devastated.
“There are no words in the English language to describe the horrible pain in my heart,” he said.
Dimmitt, two months away from graduating high school, had gone out the morning of April 25 with the intention of surprising his mother with a coffee, court records show.
He was driving through the intersection of 84th Street East and Waller Road when a van driven by Argueta blew through the intersection and hit his car.
Dimmitt suffered massive internal injuries and died at the hospital about three hours later.
Investigators said Argueta was drunk, high on marijuana and going upwards of 90 mph just before the collision. His sister, who was riding with him, shattered both ankles in the wreck.
They’d been out partying in Seattle in the hours prior to the crash.
On Thursday, a subdued Argueta said he was sorry, adding that if there was anything he could do to take back his actions, he’d do it.
“If I could change places, I would,” he said.
Cuthbertson pointed out that wasn’t possible and gave a final nod to Quinnton’s family.
“You sentenced them to life,” the judge told Argueta. “They don’t get to ever get over it. Quinnton doesn’t get to come back.”