Andrew Ryan Cassell, 25, will spend at least two years in prison but could remain there for up to 15 years, under a sentence imposed Thursday morning by Fourth District Ada County Judge Deborah Bail.
Cassell was driving drunk at 2:45 a.m. Oct. 31 after leaving a bar following a Halloween night celebration. He fell asleep, ran off the road and struck a power pole on State Street near Glenwood Street. Passenger Aldina Ekic, 21, died at the scene.
Cassell pleaded guilty in March to vehicular manslaughter.
On Thursday, Cassell stood and apologized to Ekic's parents, other family members and friends.
"I can't imagine how this has torn your family apart," Cassell said.
A court official translated what Cassell said into Bosnian, the language spoken by Ekic's parents, who emigrated from Bosnia.
"I wonder why it was me and not her who survived. It's not fair. It's not fair," Cassell said.
Cassell's father, Patrick Cassell, and brother, Alexander Cassell, told how Andrew had changed for the better since the wreck. They said he took responsibility for Ekic's death and expressed consistent remorse.
Patrick Cassell said he spoke with his son who registered a blood alcohol level of 0.125 percent the night of the crash, above Idahos legal limit of .08 percent about his legal options before he entered a plea in the case. He said Andrew told him "forcefully" he planned to plead guilty.
"Two days later, he pleaded guilty in court," Patrick Cassell said.
Alexander Cassell said his younger brother told him Ekic's family deserved the "honor of justice" and that he was willing to pay the price for his actions.
"His remorse, his desire to change what happened, his desire to atone for what he did has been constant," Alexander Cassell said.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff White had asked for 15 years but with a five-year mandatory sentence before Cassell was eligible for parole.
White said he believed Cassell was genuinely remorseful, but said he needed to pay a penalty for Ekic's death.
"She is now dead and she is dead because of Andrew Cassell," White said. "When you drink and drive, people die."
Bail complimented Cassell for taking responsibility for his actions and for expressing remorse and undergoing counseling since the incident.
"The defendant has shown everything we hope a person would show," Bail said.
The prosecution noted that Cassell had been arrested for drag racing after reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. He was placed on probation and lost his license, but continued driving, leading to several citations.
"His record reflects a lot of poor choices," Bail said, though she noted that the charge stemming from the wreck that killed Ekic was his first felony.
Defense attorney Randall Barnum said he had hoped for less time but said his client had expected he might be sent to prison.
"At the end of the day, you have a nice kid," Barnum said. "He made a terrible decision that resulted in tragic consequences."
John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell