The friend’s mother and a public defender urged mercy for Sean Begin, saying the 19-year-old didn’t mean to hurt anyone and deserves a chance to rebuild his life.
But 3rd District Judge Thomas Ryan said that Begin’s actions, the latest in a string of crimes, constituted “just unacceptable behavior, and it’s not excusable by your young age.”
“The court has a responsibility of making sure there’s deterrence,” Ryan said Tuesday afternoon before handing down a sentence of at least two years in prison, and up to five, for felony leaving the scene of an accident and felony operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Begin also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
According to Idaho State Police, Begin was driving a stolen Ford pickup on Nampa’s Amity Road before dawn Dec. 5 when he lost control on a slick patch and the pickup went through a fence. The vehicle rolled, and 17-year-old Dante Wilcox was ejected and killed. Three younger teens were injured, as was Begin, who fled the scene, police said.
“I miss Dante, but he’ll always be with us, and he doesn’t want his friend to suffer,” Wilcox’s mother, Barbara Vaughan, told the judge, saying that her son and Begin loved each other. “They were just being kids; they were just out being silly. ... They’re ignorant teenagers.”
Begin, his hair trimmed short, looked steadily at Vaughan as she spoke directly to him: “I wanted to tell you I love you, Sean, and I forgive you. It will be with you for the rest of your life, and that ... is punishment.”
Public defender Kimberly Simmons and Begin asked the judge to retain jurisdiction so Begin could enter a “rider” program of one to two years in which he could earn a high school equivalency degree and address his drug abuse issues.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes up to this point,” Begin said. “I look at what I could have become and what I chose to do, and it hits me ... I just want to do better now.”
Ryan told Begin that he will be eligible for parole in two years and still be a young man able to pursue his potential. Ryan followed the sentencing recommendation of Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Doug Robertson.
Robertson said Begin “had been out of control for quite a while,” with “a wide range of criminal activities.” At the time of the crash the teen had multiple outstanding warrants, he said. Those offenses, including leaving the scene of an earlier accident and resisting officers, were dismissed during Tuesday’s hearing.
The night of the fatal crash, Begin smoked meth and drove fast on “an extremely icy road,” Robertson said. His actions, including running away from a crash that killed one friend and injured others, showed “he was not able to get the message ... that he needed to make a change,” he said.
Simmons said Begin has a ninth-grade education and a history of abuse and behavioral issues. She said he has emotional support from his family, but no one from the family attended the hearing or submitted statements on his behalf.
“He’s got some insight into his own behaviors, and he also recognizes that he has a substance abuse issue,” Simmons said. “He wants to get a GED, ... get a good job and make better friends.”
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447