Texting driver who nearly severed Utah woman's leg gets 6 months in jail, probation
Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
DUCHESNE — A Uintah County man who nearly severed a Roosevelt woman's leg in two places while texting and driving with drugs in his system pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to jail time and probation.
Jake Antonio Arrats, of Fort Duchesne, pleaded guilty in 8th District Court to seven misdemeanor charges, including one count each of driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance in his body and inflicting injury while texting and driving.
Arrats, 28, sideswiped the parked car Keri Houston was sitting in on Jan. 28. Houston's door was open and her left foot was planted on the ground outside when the crash happened. The impact ripped her out of the car and caused a near-complete amputation of her left leg in two places.
Doctors believe it was the quick thinking of good Samaritans — one of whom used his belt as a makeshift tourniquet — that saved the 19-year-old's life.
Arrats told police he was replying to a text message from his wife with the word "Haha" when he hit Houston. He also admitted he had consumed a few beers that day and smoked marijuana several days earlier, according to court record.
Prosecutors originally charged Arrats with felony DUI, based on the injuries Houston sustained. But Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote reduced the charge to driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance, a class B misdemeanor, because the results of blood tests performed on Arrats after the crash did not support the felony charge.
Defense attorney Bill Morrison told the court his client has taken "full responsiblity" for his actions from the beginning. He even asked if he could contact Houston and her family to apologize. Morrison said both he and the prosecutor, however, advised Arrats not to do so while the criminal case was pending.
When given the chance Thursday, Arrats did apologize to Houston, who spent months in the hospital, underwent 11 surgeries to save her leg and walks with the help of a boot cast.
"I'm sorry I ever hit you. It wasn't on purpose. I didn't mean to," he said. "From the bottom of my heart, I apologize, and I hope you can see it in God's eyes that somehow you can forgive me."
Before passing sentence, Judge Douglas Thomas noted that despite the "horrific injuries" inflicted on Houston, Arrats had not been charged with crimes that carried potential prison sentences.
"They're simply not very serious crimes. They're punishable by a maximum, under the law, of six months incarceration," Thomas said. "That's the maximum I can do on a class B (misdemeanor)."
The judge imposed the maximum sentences on all the charges, ordering the jail terms on the drug charge and the texting and driving charge to run consecutively. He then suspended six months of the one-year jail sentence, if Arrats' successfully completes 18 months probation.
As a condition of that probation, Thomas barred Arrats from consuming alcohol, required him to turn off all cellphones or similar devices while driving, and ordered him to participate in a public service campaign about the dangers texting and driving.
"So that others might at least get some benefit from this," the judge said.
After court, Houston said she hopes she reaches a point in her recovery where she can forgive Arrats. His courtroom apology, she said, gave her some of the closure she needs to begin moving on.
"I'm definitely ready for it to be just a story for me to tell, instead of living it," Houston said.
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