A 21-year-old Rainier man will serve a one-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to vehicular assault in a crash that left the victim, a 32-year-old Yelm man, permanently disabled.
Samuel J. Evans pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular assault and one count of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor in Thurston County Superior Court in November. But Judge Anne Hirsch delayed the sentencing hearing until Friday so that the victim, Michael Cunha, and his family could attend.
Cunha suffered life-threatening injuries after Evans crashed a Honda Civic into a power pole just after 2 a.m. April 23 on Tahoma Boulevard in Yelm. According to court documents, Cunha had been riding in the passenger seat and had to be cut from the car following the crash.
He now lives in a rehabilitation center, where he receives around-the-clock care.
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The one-year sentence is the maximum allowed by state law for someone with Evans’ criminal history — he has a juvenile record — who is facing a vehicular assault charge. Evans will be allowed to serve six months of the sentence on work release.
But the victim’s mother, Twyla Cunha, said Evans deserved a much longer sentence based on the suffering he caused to Michael Cunha and the rest of the family.
“(Evans) has taken his life from him,” Twyla Cunha said. “He has an 8-year-old son that my husband and I are raising. … He’s never going to be the same again, ever.”
Deputy prosecutor Heather Stone said Evans tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol, although his blood alcohol content was below the legal limit for driving.
“The fact that the only person who was injured was Mr. Cunha is shocking,” Stone said.
Defense attorney Charles Lane said that his client hadn’t acted maliciously and that the injuries caused by the crash could have easily been much less serious.
“If the impact was made 4 inches either way, the injuries would not have been the same,” Lane said.
He said that while Evans did have a juvenile criminal history, he had made efforts to be a responsible adult.
At the sentencing hearing, Evans apologized to Michael Cunha and his family and said that he thinks about the incident all the time.
“I remember that night, every second, beginning to end,” Evans said. “And I can’t stop thinking about it. … Had I known the outcome, I wouldn’t have drove.”