Being an immigrant himself, Pedro Sosa-Avilias told a 3rd District Judge on Monday that he felt bad that he struck and killed another immigrant, a Sudanese man, as the man was riding his bicycle home from work.
But while Sosa said he felt terrible for taking someone's life in an accident, he denied the prosecution's claims that he had been drinking heavily on the night of the incident. For his actions, he was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail.
"It was a mistake," Sosa said, adding he wanted to ask the family of 36-year-old Bap Akol Deng Bap for their forgiveness.
Sosa said he was in shock when the incident happened and did not know he had hit anyone, explaining why he drove away from the scene.
Charging documents state Bap, a Salt Lake resident from Sudan, was riding a bike equipped with reflectors, a head lamp and a flashing red light on the night of Sept. 20, 2006. Prosecutors say he also was wearing a reflective vest so motorists could see him.
Prosecutors claim Sosa had consumed several drinks that night. A witness to the accident testified during a preliminary hearing that she saw Sosa hit Bap directly with the center of his car and then keep driving, running a red light.
Sosa's attorney, Kendall Peterson, said although two co-workers at the restaurant at which Sosa works said they saw Sosa drinking that night, two others were ready to testify that he was not drinking. Sosa also claims he thought he ran into something and got out of his car to inspect, but found nothing, which conflicts with witness testimony.
It wasn't until the next day, Peterson said, that Sosa saw reports of a fatal hit-and-run accident on television and turned himself in. Prosecutors said because it had been 12 hours since the incident, sheriff's deputies were not able to gauge Sosa's blood-alcohol levels when he struck Bap.
Sosa pleaded guilty to one count of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, as part of a plea agreement with the prosecution. Family members of the victim live in Africa and were not present at Monday's hearing.
Judge Paul Maughan sentenced Sosa to serve 90 days of a one-year sentence in jail and placed him on two years' probation after his release. Sosa also may be subject to alcohol monitoring.Maughan said he was troubled that Sosa claims he did not see Bap and added that a person had lost his life and that there must be a consequence for that.