On Feb. 19, a New York court sentenced Franklin Reyes to up to nine years in prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the 2013 death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.
Reyes, aged 17 at the time, was driving his parents’ SUV and being pursued by police when he crashed on a sidewalk, WABC reports. The impact killed Ariel and severely injured her grandmother.
The guilty plea, made by Reyes in 2015, included charges of manslaughter, assault, fleeing a police officer and escape, according to the New York Daily News.
Reyes apologized to the family in court.
“I truly in my heart apologize to the entire Russo family,” Reyes said, according to WABC. “I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering that I have caused. I will carry this tragic accident for the rest of my life, knowing that I took the life of an innocent child.”
However, Ariel’s mother, Sofia, dismissed the statement as “just words,” and the presiding judge criticized Reyes for his apparent coldness and indifference.
“I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he got back in the car, not only got back in a car but injured another individual,” Judge Gregory Carro told the court, according to the New York Daily News.
Carro’s comments referred to a separate incident after Reyes had been released on bail. When he was pulled over by police officers for driving without a license, he accelerated away and dragged an officer 100 feet.
Reyes also made an escape attempt while in custody. After being taken by officers to a local hospital because he complained of chest pains, he bolted on foot but was soon recaptured.
Sofia was critical of Reyes’ behavior in her court statement.
“Ariel died a violent death because of your reckless behavior, and you have not apologized, you have shown no remorse,” she said.
Reyes sat slumped in his chair and avoided eye contact with Sofia.
“Why are you still here?” she added. "What are you going to do with your life? Are you going to just survive and then return home to continue in your recklessness and indifference?"
The family vowed to return to court if Reyes seeks parole to ensure he serves the full nine years. He could come up for parole in 18 months due to the time he has already served.