Woman convicted of DUI manslaughter sentenced to 51 weeks in jail

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Carole Pantoja said an accident she witnessed nearly a year and a half ago is still fresh in her mind.

Florida Highway Patrol investigators said 27-year-old Yetta Ospina had just left a downtown club drunk and was driving with no headlights on when she hit and killed then 25-year-old Peter Vergari on John Young Parkway.

"The sound and the sparks, when it was happening, it felt like time (had) slowed down," Pantoja said.

Reports show Ospina's blood alcohol was well over the legal limit at .185 and she was traveling 42 miles faster than the motorcycle when she slammed into it.

"We go to look for the person and he's in the median clear across the road," said Pantoja.

Ospina pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter, a crime that usually carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison, but a judge sentenced Ospina to just 51 weeks in jail.

"If that was actually someone who was my family, my brother, it would be heartbreaking. The sentencing that she got wouldn't have been enough for me," Pantoja said.

Eyewitness News asked Legal Analyst Bill Sheaffer why the judge seemingly went easy on Ospina.

"Although the Legislature wants there to be uniformity in sentencing, they don't want to take away completely the judge's discretion to individualize a sentence," Sheaffer said.

Several factors contribute to a judge's decision to veer from giving a minimum sentence in what's called a "downward departure."

Sheaffer said it can be because there is an evidentiary problem or a plea deal.