BOISE -- A Boise man who killed one of his passengers in a violent car wreck earlier this year was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.
Austin Campbell, 24, will have to spend at least five years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole.
The wreck happened March 17 as Campbell drove his friends home from the bar. A witness reported seeing his Rav 4 careen off the Connector and across the ramp to Fairview Avenue before rolling several times.
The car came to rest up on an embankment, tilted on its side up against a telephone pole.
A backseat passenger, 25-year-old Jacob Cecil, was killed. Other young men riding in the car were hospitalized with injuries ranging from broken vertebrae to a brain bleed.
Campbell's blood alcohol content was later measured at .211 - more than double the legal limit of .08. He pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter and DUI in June.
The victim's mother, Sherri Cecil, told the judge her son's death left a void in her family.
"No parent should have to bury a child," she said. "I can't think of anything worse."
She described Cecil as generous and funny, with a "goofy smile" and a heart for children and animals. Sherri Cecil described her family's pain at reaching important milestones and holidays without him - Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July - as well as the realization that he would never again join in the activities he once loved.
"He wont be on his dad's bowling league this year. He won't be on the annual hunting trip," she said. "The idea of having to live the rest of our lives without Jake is overwhelming."
Campbell cried as he apologized to Cecil's family, the court and all of Boise for choosing to get behind the wheel drunk the night of the crash.
"I was careless, reckless, with the decisions I made that night," Campbell said, describing Cecil as a dear friend and a person he looked up to.
The defendant said he had been in denial about the extent of his problems with alcohol.
"I know that no words I can say right now are going to make those amends," he said. "I can only hope for forgiveness in time."
His defense attorney asked the judge to place Campbell on retained jurisdiction, or give him a chance at parole after just two years in prison, arguing a shorter sentence would allow him to get substance abuse treatment and return to the workforce in order to pay restitution to the victims.
But prosecutors urged a longer prison sentence, pointing to Campbell's prior convictions and squandered opportunities to change. Court records show he has several prior alcohol-related convictions, including a DUI in 2010.
The prosecutor also blasted his "flat and emotionless" reactions after the crash, recounting how Campbell told police repeatedly that he was not the driver and that he had no idea who Cecil was.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Deborah Bail told Cecil's family that she understood no court decision could ever address the magnitude of their loss.
She told Campbell she hoped his prison sentence would act as a warning to others tempted to get into their cars after a night of drinking.
"The unfortunate reality is that drunk drivers kill," she said. "They kill strangers, and they kill their friends."
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