IOWA CITY — A judge on Tuesday rejected a deferred judgment for a 22-year-old Cedar Rapids woman, who, while speeding and texting, caused a fatal crash that killed a 54-year-old Swisher woman and instead sentenced her to two years in prison.
Several family members of Patty Mittauer, a retired U.S. Navy nurse, told the judge in victim impact statements they believed Kaitlyn Richards should serve time in prison.
Richards was speeding and texting when her vehicle rear-ended Mittauer’s vehicle on Jan. 24, 2016, forcing it across two lanes of Interstate 80 near Coralville and into a collision with a semi trailer truck.
Mittauer’s husband, Mark Mittauer of Swisher, said in his statement that Richards “changed our lives forever” that day, when he, his wife and two of their four children were driving to a restaurant to celebrate his birthday.
He said his “brave heroes” — Ellie, 14, and Dylan, 17 — had to call 911 because he and Patty were unconscious. He pointed out that his son knew his mother was dead.
Mittauer told 6th Judicial District Judge Chad Kepros that he was “furious about the so-called punishment” in the plea agreement that recommended a deferred judgment for Richards’ “thoughtlessness and stupidity.”
He told Richards he hoped she did something worthwhile with her life to make up for the “sacrifice” of his wife’s life.
“I forgive you and pray for you daily,” Mittauer said.
Kepros said this was “extremely difficult case,” but that he could not, “in good conscience,” grant the deferred judgment, which had been agreed to by the defense and prosecution attorneys and recommended in a presentence investigation.
Richards pleaded guilty in April to involuntary manslaughter, an aggravated misdemeanor, which carries up to two years in prison. She was originally charged with homicide by vehicle and reckless driving, which carries a five-year prison sentence.
Kepros told Richards he was concerned about her time on pretrial release, when she was convicted twice — April 10, 2016, and May 13, 2016 — of operating under the influence.
In each case, she received 60 days in jail, which was deferred, and one year of probation.
He also was concerned she had stopped drinking only three months ago and stopped using marijuana only two months ago.
A prison sentence was necessary and would provide the needed structure for her, Kepros concluded.
Richards, in turning toward the Mittauer family in the courtroom, said she was “deeply sorry that my actions and bad choices” caused a death and that she takes full responsibility for her actions.
Richards also had many family members and friends in the courtroom.
Before Kepros announced the sentencing, Patty’s siblings, Mary Johnson, John Butler and James Butler, said in victim impact statements they still are grieving for their sister, who was loving and a strong person of faith.
James Butler said the “justice system has failed us.” Richards’ life will go on, no matter what happens in the court hearing, and his sister’s will not.
John Butler said the “pain and suffering is unimaginable without Patty — our rock.”
Johnson said she lost her “best friend,” who couldn’t be replaced, and it’s made her a different person.
Dylan Mittauer, Patty’s son, said in a statement read by his father that “my childhood ended that day” when he was spitting glass out of his mouth and saw his parents unconscious. He had to climb out the shattered window and pull out his sister.
He had to lie to her and say their mother would be OK, he stated, even though he had seen his mother being wheeled away on a stretcher with a sheet over her.
Another son, Eric Mittauer, said the “world is a darker place” without his mother and that he has tried to let his anger go because it’s what his mother would have wanted.
After the hearing, Mark Mittauer said he was “surprised” by the judge’s sentencing but said it was “fair” decision. He hoped Richards would take the time and change her life because that’s what his wife would have wanted.
In July, another judge, Lars Anderson, first rejected the deferred judgment plea agreement and ordered the presentencing investigation report, a routine procedure in felony cases. He said he wanted the discretion to sentence Richards to two years or a lesser sentence but also wanted the recommendation first.
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