District Judge Stewart McDonald of Clinton County, Michigan, banned Mitzi Nelson, 23, from using a cellphone for two years after she pleaded no contest to killing 35-year-old Jill Byelich with her car while she was texting and driving.
Byelich, a mother of two who worked for the Michigan State Police as a grant adviser, was cycling on the shoulder of a road in Watertown Township, Michigan, wearing the proper safety and visibility equipment when Nelson hit her with her vehicle on Sept. 2, 2014.
"In the blink of an eye, a moment's carelessness, a life was taken, something I'm certain at 23 years of age Ms. Nelson will relive for the rest of her life," McDonald said.
In addition to being banned from using portable communication devices for the length of her two-year probation, a punishment suggested by the victim’s husband, Jordan Byelich, she will serve 90 days in Clinton County Jail. Nelson’s jail time will be staggered — she will serve 30 days behind bars immediately and another 30 days over the holiday season. The remaining 30 days will be suspended.
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"She'll sit alone in jail and think about not being with her family what a penalty is that,” McDonald said. "Well Ms. Byelich won't be with her family either, permanently.”
Nelson will also have to serve 150 hours of community service and speak to 20 driver’s education classes about the dangers of distracted driving. Though McDonald admitted his authority to ban Nelson from using a cellphone could be challenged, he defended his sentence. "I don't think she has a right to have a cellphone," he said. "I think it's a privilege.”
Nelson’s attorney, Mike Nichols, said it’s unlikely he’ll challenge the ban. "Mitzi may be just fine with that," he told the Lansing State Journal.
Nelson will have to pay more than $15,000 in restitution to Byelich’s family. "The remorse and regret I have is immeasurable, it has been very important for me that I stay focused and try to be the best form of myself as possible," she said in court.
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As Nelson was led to prison, Jordan hugged the young woman who killed his wife. "I thought the judge thought it through very well and looked at all the factors on both sides," he said.
Jordan had a message to honor his wife. "Get off the road get out of the way of others, they're driving, they're walking, on a bike or something else to understand that we all share the road," he said.
Image via WILX