Many wept in a packed courtroom Wednesday during an intense and emotional two-hour sentencing hearing, but Cody Olson remained mostly stoic.
Jasmine Ondrick fought back tears as she asked a judge to take mercy on her boyfriend. Family members of Kelsey Belcher and Scott Hyde, who were killed in a high-speed car crash last March while Olson was driving, wept as parents described the pain of losing their kids.
Tapes of the 911 calls from people who saw Olsons car zooming down the I-184 Connector or saw the crash that killed two of Olsons best friends caused gasps. Olsons mother battled back tears as she testified for her son. Through it all, Olson maintained an even demeanor at the defense table, neither crying nor betraying emotion even as he was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs.
When given a chance to speak, Olson was brief and stared straight ahead.
I would like you to know I take full responsibility for what I have done, Olson told 4th District Judge Lynn Norton on Wednesday. My true punishment is that I know I took the life of my two friends ... I would like the families to know I am sorry.
Olson, 20, pleaded guilty to two charges of vehicular manslaughter in November. On Wednesday, Norton sentenced him to 20 years in prison, but allowed him to ask for parole after serving three. Once released from prison, Olson will have to pay more than $300,000 restitution in medical bills and will lose all driving privileges for 10 years.
Olson had marijuana in his system and had been drinking alcohol before losing control of a 2002 Lexus sedan and smashing into a concrete wall at the Curtis Road exit ramp early in the morning of March 3 but he later told police that he didnt remember smoking any pot that night.
The force of the impact immediately killed backseat passenger Scott R. Hyde, 18. Backseat passenger Kelsey Belcher, 18, died a week later.
Olson and 19-year-old Nick Hendriksen suffered traumatic brain injuries, broken bones and other injuries, and were hospitalized for months. Ondrick, who was then 17, was the only one wearing a seat belt. She suffered a collapsed lung and broken bones and spent two weeks in the hospital.
An Idaho Vehicle Collision Report said Olson had a blood alcohol content of 0.07 about an hour after the crash. The legal limit is 0.08, but in Idaho someone younger than 21 with a BAC above 0.02 may be charged with a DUI.
Stupid teen driving
Defense attorney Mark Manweiler told Norton during Wednesdays hearing that all the kids in the car that morning were all intoxicated to some degree, but said the main reason for the crash was not intoxication but stupid teen driving behavior Olson was just driving too fast and had no intention of hurting anyone.
This was a situation where someone drove like an idiot. Thats what led to this horrible tragedy, Manweiler said.
He said that putting Olson in prison wont help bring back the kids who died or fix the survivors, and will make it so that Olson cant get the treatment he needs to recover physically and mentally. He also wont be able to work to pay restitution, the lawyer said.
Olson could do more good sharing his cautionary story with other young people, Manweiler said.
What we are after here is justice, not punishment, he said. Lets give him the chance to prove that he can learn from the past.
Ondrick told Norton that Olson was not the only one responsible for what happened, saying everyone in the car made some bad decisions that night.
I know there is consequences. ... I am here, judge, to ask for mercy, Ondrick said. We all had a part to do with (what happened) that night. ... My life will never be the same.
Lisa Hyde, Scotts mother, said her family was broken because of the senseless crash. She said she never thought I would have to be the mom of a dead boy.
I wish every day Cody decided not to drive the car that night. ... Scott was in Codys car because he was friends with him and trusted him, Hyde said.
Angie Olson said her son was in the hospital for almost two weeks before he was told what happened, because they needed to wait until he could retain memories.
She said when he realized what he did, Cody asked the family members of the other children to come to his hospital room so he could apologize.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Ben Harmer asked Norton for a 20-year prison sentence, with Olson unable to ask for parole until he served five years. He said that sentence would send a message to the community that such behavior would not be tolerated.
Harmer also pointed out that Olsons driving license was suspended at the time of the crash because of previous traffic citations. Olson received four tickets, including two for speeding, between October 2011 and March 2012.
Olson also continued to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol in the months after the crash, Harmer said, and even smoked pot in August, after he learned there was a warrant for his arrest and police showed up at his dads house to find him.
And Harmer said Olson has had disciplinary issues at the Ada County Jail.
Though Norton allowed for quicker parole, she said a prison sentence will help protect society.
She also told Olson that she wasnt warehousing him that he has a chance to embrace all the treatment programs available to him in the Idaho Department of Correction and demonstrate that he has learned from his mistakes.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr