Teen gets 3 1/2 years in pal's crash death
By DAVID KARP
© St. Petersburg Times,
TAMPA -- As he waited outside the courtroom Friday, Reginald Brandon Edgar was surrounded by friends.
His buddies from high school and his girlfriend comforted the skinny 19-year-old with hugs and gentle pats on the back. Even Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta recognized his popularity.
"Young people are drawn to you," Ficarrotta said. "You have that potential."
But that gift to attract friends played a part in an accident last year that claimed the life of his best friend, 14-year-old Nicholas Hastings, and led to a 3 1/2-year prison sentence Friday.
Edgar was driving with four under-age friends when they got an adult to buy them beer at a convenience store. About 12:50 a.m. on Dec. 3, Edgar collided with a car at Falkenburg and Palm River roads near Brandon.
Edgar's car, a black 1995 Toyota Corolla, careened into a retention pond. The teens kicked out the car's rear window and ran. They said they didn't notice Hastings trapped inside.
Even deputies who responded didn't see the vehicle in the water. Hours later, authorities found the 14-year-old boy in the car. He had drowned.
If someone had called 911 immediately, Hastings might have been saved, officials told his mother. There was a fire station across the street.
"I am deeply disturbed by the fact that Brandon did not report the accident until several hours later," Hastings' mother, Candace, said in court. "They went to a friend's house to regroup and sober up, I guess."
Officials estimated that Edgar's blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.107, above the 0.08 threshold at which the state considers a driver impaired. Edgar and friends also smoked marijuana that night, prosecutors said.
Originally, Edgar could have faced 30 years in prison on charges of vehicular homicide. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter, which carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
After serving his time in prison, Edgar must speak to teenagers about the dangers of drinking and driving, the judge said.
Prosecutors asked the victim's mother what sentence she wanted.
Five years in prison, then 10 years of probation, she said.
"By that time, Brandon Edgar will hopefully have matured and have achieved a measure of responsibility," she said.
Assistant State Attorney Doug Covington called her request "extremely magnanimous."
"I can't count more than one time when a victim's family does not come to prosecutors and doesn't want the max," Covington said.
But any prison time was too much for many of Edgar's friends and family. They described the Riverview High School graduate as sweet and thoughtful, and said he would not survive in prison.
"I hate to see his life for all intents and purposes cut short," Edgar's mother, Lisa, said quivering.
"Brandon would not have left Nick under any circumstances had he been aware of what was going on," she said.
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