Woman gets 4 years for DUI death of bicyclist
By VIK JOLLY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SANTA ANA – A 23-year-old woman from Newport Coast pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing a bicyclist while driving intoxicated and driving while texting on her cell phone.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison sentenced Danae Marie Miller to four years in state prison.
Moments after the hearing, Miller's relatives met with members of victim Amine Britel's family in the second floor hallway of the courthouse.
Britel, 41, of Newport Beach, who owned a travel business and was a triathlete, died at the scene of the Feb. 21, 2011, crash.
The two families wept; some of Miller's relatives said "I am so sorry" to Britel's kin as they embraced.
"It's a remarkable meeting of families in many ways," said Paul Meyer, Miller's defense attorney. "This has opened the opportunity for both families to heal their losses together."
Britel's mother, his sister and a friend gave victim impact statements to Robison, saying Britel's death had changed their lives.
A friend interpreted for Ghita Britel, who speaks French and told the court she feels "overwhelming pain" since becoming a parent who has lost a child.
"I never in my life thought I'd live this horror," she said. "Since his death I lost all reasons for" living.
She doesn't doubt the pain Miller's family is going through, but hopes "this is going to be a lesson for her," the grieving mother added.
Britel's sister, Mouna Britel, told Robison she unconsciously sits by the telephone at 10 a.m. daily when her brother used to call.
"My suffering is permanent," she said, also speaking through an interpreter. "And my life will never be the same."
Miller was charged with one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated. If convicted at trial, she faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. She pleaded guilty to a court offer.
Prosecutors say she drank at her workplace, Zinc Café in Corona del Mar, on Feb. 21 and got behind the wheel of her 2008 Volkswagen Jetta.
Miller was driving eastbound on San Joaquin Hills Road, while sending and receiving text messages on her cell phone, Deputy District Attorney Nancy Hayashida said.
Britel was riding eastbound, near Spyglass Road. Miller struck Britel from behind. She had been texting prior to, not at the time of the crash, her attorney said.
Miller, whose blood alcohol content was 0.10 after the accident, had received several traffic citations, including five for speeding and two for using a cell phone while driving.
Britel's death also shook a large family of athletes and cyclists.
"I no longer have my coach, my training partner and my friend," said Jennifer Angell.
She rode alongside Britel for years and he always gave her a "gut-wrenching training routine," she said in her statement to the court.
Angell said she hopes the outcome of the case makes the roads safer.
02.28.12 - 7:58 pm