A landmark texting verdict yesterday sent shockwaves through the smartphone set with a sentence that will lock up an 18-year-old for a year and strip him of his driver’s license for 15 more years.
“The message here is, the commonwealth is not going to tolerate any violations of this law,” Boston criminal defense lawyer William D. Kickham said. “It’s extremely dangerous to text and drive at the same time, and the jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentencing reflects that.”
A Haverhill District Court jury found Aaron Deveau of Haverhill guilty of motor vehicle homicide and texting while driving causing injury.
Judge Stephen Abany sentenced him to 21⁄2 years in the House of Correction on the motor vehicle homicide charge and two years on the texting count. Deveau was ordered to serve one year concurrently on both charges, and the balance of both charges are suspended for five years, and his license will be suspended for 15 years.
Massachusetts State Police applauded the sentence.
“This was an important case that made very clear the consequences of distracted driving and the resolve and ability of police and prosecutors to hold accountable people who do it,” state police spokesman Dave Procopio said.
Prosecutors said Deveau sent or received 193 text messages in the hours before his Chevy Malibu collided with Donald Bowley’s car. Bowley, a father of three, was killed, and his passenger Luz Selena Roman was disabled.
“There are no winners today,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “A beloved grandfather is dead. A once active woman can no longer work and is still racked with pain from her injuries and a young man is going to jail.”
Massachusetts, which has prohibited drivers from sending and reading text messages since 2010, is one of 39 states with such bans. Five more ban young drivers from texting while driving, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports.
“It’s a fast-moving piece of highway safety legislation,” institute spokesman Russ Rader said, “because texting while driving is such an obvious risk.”
“Maybe this will be the final wake-up call,” said James Lewis of Kyrus Mobile, a Concord company whose device blocks drivers from sending texts and surfing the Web.
“Studies show that distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to crash,” he said, “and distracted driving is still eight times worse in terms of reaction times than drunk driving.”