Sobbing Defendant Pleads Guilty To DUI Manslaughter
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Throwing herself on the mercy of the court, a young woman said she will take whatever punishment the judge sees fit after she killed a man last year while in a drunken, DUI stupor.
Jessica Araujo, now 26, sobbed uncontrollably as her victim's widow spoke of the many happy years she will not share with her late husband, Naji El-Kadi.
"There will not be many happy years to come," the widow, Jihan Haidar said in court.
Araujo was stinking drunk, three times over the legal blood alcohol limit, when she blew a light last April at SW 127 Avenue and 120 Street in Miami-Dade, killing El-Kadi. Already legally married, he and his wife were to have a formal wedding ceremony two days after he was killed.
"We picked those flowers, and those flowers were for our wedding ballroom, and they ended up at the funeral home," his widow said.
Araujo apologized to her victim's family, saying she had destroyed her own life as well.
"I understand and sympathize with your pain, but I, too, have suffered an immense loss," a weeping Araujo said.
"My client is extremely remorseful for what took place. She has shown a lot of remorse. She hopes by what happened today, she starts to giving the family closure," said defense attorney Helmuth Solis.
Friends of the victim said Araujo's youth should not mitigate her punishment.
"I don't think she should get any leniency because she's young. I'm young, and I make smart decisions," one family friend told the judge.
El-Kadi's widow said his death and Araujo's future incarceration should serve as a cautionary tale against DUI.
"They need to think about the people on the street, think about their families and just make the right decision," she said of those who might consider drinking and driving.
Araujo pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and a host of other charges.
"I am so sorry," she said, sobbing. The guilty pleas came after efforts to reach a plea bargain with the state fell through.
Judge Richard Hersch pronounced her guilty on the spot on all charges.
Having not reached a plea agreement, and assuming the sentences will run consecutively, Araujo faces up to 20 years in state prison when Judge Hersch sentences her on October 27th.
El-Kadi's widow told reporters she thought a sentence of 10 to 15 years would be appropriate.
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