The law is good at fixing some things, Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson said Friday.
But as he sentenced a woman for a drunken-driving wreck that cost a man his legs, the Pierce County judge added: “In this case, what’s been lost can’t be replaced.”
Brenda Pleasants, 42, pleaded guilty to vehicular assault last month, and Cuthbertson sentenced her to a year and a day in prison, the term her attorney and a deputy prosecutor agreed to recommend as part of a plea deal.
The sentence was higher than the standard range of three to nine months because of the severity of the injuries to the man she hit, Cortney Spencer.
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Spencer, 30, was hurt Jan. 5 after he ran out of gas at East 38th Street and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma on a bridge with no shoulder. He was standing behind his vehicle when Pleasants crashed into him after she’d been drinking.
His legs were injured to the extent that both had to be amputated.
“I’ll never be able to play with my kids the same or anything,” he told the court.
He said Pleasants had changed his life dramatically, and that he’d have to relearn how to walk.
“I used to be an energetic person, always working on cars,” Spencer said. “... Now I just can’t even do anything on my own.”
His mother, Michele Jones, spoke of “the hell and the torment” Pleasants put their family through.
“She decided to get drunk, and this is the result of that,” Jones said. “... I cannot forgive her for what she’s done. It’s going to take a long time, if I ever get to that point.”
When Cuthbertson saw Spencer’s son was in the courtroom, he invited 12-year-old Trevion Spencer to step forward.
The boy had come to court from his sixth-grade graduation, and as he went to stand with his father and grandmother, started to cry.
“None of us can fix what happened,” Cuthbertson said to Spencer. “I would just ask that you be strong for your children, for your son. You obviously still have a lot to live for.”
He asked that the family not hate, and instead focus on loving each other.
That’s when Pleasants, who had turned her chair away from Spencer and bowed her head, started to sob.
“She’s not going through what you’re going through, but there are a lot of people hurt by what happened,” the judge said.
As Cuthbertson took a brief recess, Pleasants’ attorney, Charles Johnston, put his arm around her.
When the judge returned, Johnston said Pleasants was a good mother to her two children, and that she had never hurt anybody previously.
“I don’t even think she’s littered before,” the attorney said.
She had wept uncontrollably every time they’d met, he told the judge.
“I’m convinced that these aren’t tears for herself. ... They are tears for Mr. Spencer and his family,” Johnston said.
When it was Pleasants’ turn to speak, she continued sobbing, and her attorney referred the judge to a letter she’d written the court.
It said in part: “I wake up every day wishing that this was just a horrible nightmare and that it would go away but I realize it isn’t and search for a way to forgive myself for that night and hope that somewhere, somehow, sometime Mr. Spencer can find it in his heart to forgive me as well.”