Massachusetts teenager Aaron Deveau has been jailed for a year over a fatal traffic accident that happened while he was texting, in a landmark case.
"He's a texter, that's what he does," said Prosecutor Ashlee Logan of the Haverhill 18-year-old, found guilty of negligent motor vehicle homicide that caused the death of Donald Bowley Jr., 55, of Danville, New Hampshire in February 2011, according to NECN.
Logan painted Deveau as a typical teen — "his cell phone never far from his hand," and according to the Associated Press sent 193 text messages the day of the crash, including some a minute or so before impact — as well as dozens more after it.
Deveau's lawyer, Joseph Lussier, said the number of texts Deveau sent that day was irrelevant, the AP reported.
Police said that Deveau's car crossed the center line on a street in Haverhill and crashed head-on into the vehicle driven by Bowley — a father of three — who died 18 days later of his injuries.
His girlfriend, Luz Roman, a passenger in the vehicle, was seriously injured.
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According to NECN, the following exchange took place between the prosecutor and Deveau:
"Were you looking down at your lap?" Logan asked the teen. "No I was not," he answered. "Were u looking at your cell phone?" she asked. "No, I was not," he replied.
Deveau, 17 at the time of the crash, had pled not guilty to negligent motor vehicle homicide and causing injury in a crash while texting and driving.
He said he had his phone on the passenger seat and had been distracted by thoughts of homework when the crash occurred. He had swerved to avoid another vehicle that suddenly hit its brakes, he said.
He did, however, apologize to Bowley's family. “I made a mistake,’’ Deveau told the judge. “If I could take it back, I would take it back. I just want to apologize to the family,’’ the Boston Globe reported.
Texting while driving is a crime in Washington, DC, and 38 states, including Massachusetts. Deveau is the first to be jailed for the offense, according to ABC News.
Deveau was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation while texting, and sentenced to two and a half years behind bars with a year to serve.
District Court Judge Stephen Abany, noting Deveau’s youth and lack of criminal record, suspended the remainder of the sentence, the Globe wrote.
He lost his license for 15 years.
Bowley's sister, Donna Burleigh, said after the verdict: "We hope this sends a message that it's not OK to text and drive."