ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A former Orange County pastor who lost his wife in a traffic accident 18 months ago told a judge that he did not want the teen accused of causing the crash to go to prison.
On Wednesday, Mark Matheson sat down with Channel 9's Ryan Hughes and talked about why he felt prison would not have served a purpose.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrested Cody Robinson-Banks after the Windermere crash that left Matheson critically injured and his wife Carla dead.
"There's no hate in your heart?" Hughes asked Matheson.
"None. Unforgiveness, hate -- I think they corrode the container we carry them in," said Matheson.
Matheson lost his wife when Robinson-Banks' vehicle crashed into theirs as they drove along Overstreet Road.
Troopers determined Robinson-Banks, who was 17 at the time of the crash, was traveling 30 miles per hour over the speed limit as he rounded a curve.
Robinson-Banks was charged two counts of reckless driving, causing bodily injury. He faced 15 years in prison.
Matheson came face-to-face with Robinson-Banks in court.
"At that proceeding, he showed genuine remorse to me. 'Mr. Matheson, I'm so sorry for what I did. Would you forgive me?' His father (said), 'We're so sorry,' in tears," Matheson said.
The former pastor said he had a choice to make.
"I called my father-in-law. I called my kids. I said, 'We need to forgive this guy,'" he said.
Matheson said he asked state prosecutors to suggest Robinson-Banks get 10 years of probation, serve 1,000 hours of community service and financial restitution. The judge agreed.
"For us, this is not a sign of weakness, this is a sign of strength. We want him to learn from what he did. We want him to understand why we're doing what we're doing," said Matheson. "I would tell anybody who has a similar experience, 'Look, sometimes life is tragic and life is unexpected and it's hard, but don't let that define you. More forward with God's help and God's grace.'"
Matheson said he will meet with Robinson-Banks and his family on Thursday and wants him to understand that he has a second chance, and to use it wisely as a productive member of society.
Hughes tried to contact Robinson-Banks for comment, but was unsuccessful.
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