Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A San Diego woman who was texting and chatting on her cell phone before she slammed her Toyota Prius into the back of an idling car on an Orange County freeway, killing the 23-year-old driver, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

Jorene Ypano Nicolas tearfully apologized to the victim’s family.

“The thought of you not being with your daughter is absolutely killing me every day,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of my pain, I’m sorry you can’t physically be with your daughter anymore.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg wasn’t swayed by the apology. He imposed the maximum term under the law on the 32-year-old defendant, saying that her lack of remorse was “deafening.”

The judge said distracted driving that results in a fatality is worse than driving under the influence because there’s no impairment involved. The defendant made a choice to text while driving, he said.

Nicolas was convicted Aug. 13 of gross vehicular manslaughter, in her second trial. A separate jury last year could not reach a unanimous decision.

Prosecutors said Nicolas sent 13 text messages in the 15 minutes before the April 27, 2011, crash on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Westminster and answered a phone call just before the impact.

An Event Data Recorder — known informally as a “black box” — in Nicolas’ 2006 Prius indicated she was driving 85 mph at the time of the 10:58 a.m. collision that killed Deanna Mauer, a star softball player, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker.

From 10:42 a.m. until 10:56 a.m., there’s a record of the defendant sending 13 text messages, the prosecutor said. At 10:57 a.m., records indicate she took a call, according to Walker.

“She’s doing this actively, not paying attention, driving 20 miles per hour over the limit,” Walker said, telling jurors that northbound traffic ahead had come to a halt due to another collision.

Another motorist, who was stopped in traffic in his Porsche, looked up and noticed Mauer’s Hyundai behind him, also idling, for about 30 seconds, Walker said. He recognized the driver because he saw her earlier in traffic and thought she was “cute,” the prosecutor said.

“Then he heard an explosion,” Walker said. “Then he felt an impact to his vehicle that pinged him like a pinball.”

Jack Jeffries told investigators that Nicolas did not try to help Mauer and instead hobbled back to her car to retrieve her phone and make calls, Walker said.

Nicolas’ attorney, Joe Dane, questioned the accuracy of the computer data from the car and suggested Mauer may have caused the crash.

Nicolas herself previously claimed that Mauer was responsible for the crash.

“She veered into my lane, so I avoided her and I hit the center divider,” Nicolas told reporters last year after her first trial ended with jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt. “I tried to avoid her and her car spun out and hit the center divider.”

In March, the defendant told a judge she wanted to accept a judge’s plea offer under which she would have faced a year in jail, 500 hours of community service and five years of probation, but she backed out and hired Dane.

—City News Service

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