An 18-year-old woman who hit and killed a 67-year-old construction worker in Puerto Rico, Saipan last December was sentenced Friday to 30 days in prison, followed by 90 days in house arrest.
Cassandra Camacho pleaded guilty to reckless driving as part of a plea deal. Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo sentenced her to six months’ imprisonment, all suspended except for four months. After serving the house arrest, Camacho will then be placed on probation for two years. She was ordered to pay restitution for the victim’s medical and funeral expenses.
Reckless driving usually carries a penalty of fine of not less than $25 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment of not more than six months.
When the issue was discussed whether Camacho’s sentence will be prison term or house arrest, Govendo only allowed family members in the courtroom. Several of the defendant’s family members were in the courtroom.
Saipan Tribune learned that the CNMI’s traffic law requires 16- or 17-year-old defendants to be tried in regular court cases and not in juvenile court. The defendant in this case was a minor when the incident happened.
Assistant public defender Vina Seelam, counsel for Camacho, refused to comment.
Chief Prosecutor Bradley said yesterday that the request to not allow the media or other people inside the courtroom came from the defense. Bradley said his preference is for media to always be allowed in the courtroom. “I believe there is a constitutional right to media to cover court decisions,” Bradley said.
He expressed hope that this case will be a cautionary tale for other teen driver. He said a person was killed by the reckless behavior of the teenage driver.
“We hope that young people will think carefully about how they make decisions, understanding that their bad driving can seriously injure or kill innocent people,” he said.
The victim in this case, Sergio Apostol, was driving a Nissan Sentra and turning into the Puerto Rico Shell gas station when a speeding 2015 Toyota Highlander driven by Camacho slammed into the car from the opposite direction.
Then 17-year-old Camacho and another minor female occupant of the Highlander sustained minor injuries. Apostol, who was the sole occupant of the Nissan Sentra, was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Commonwealth Health Center for serious injuries. He passed away three days later in the hospital. The collision occurred at about 8pm on Dec. 16, 2019, across the Shell gas station in Puerto Rico.
Shell surveillance footage showed that the SUV was speeding through Puerto Rico just across Shell as the sedan that Apostol was driving turned slowly into the gas station. The SUV collided with the passenger side of the sedan, sending it flying backwards as the SUV continued forward before hitting a nearby power pole. The strong impact caused the pole to crack on its base, nearly knocking it over completely.