KAILUA-KONA >> A Hawaii island man was sentenced to five years in prison in connection with a car crash that killed a mother of 4 and injured three teenage girls in 2019.
Nicholas Abarcar, 26, pleaded guilty in March to second-degree negligent homicide and three counts of second-degree negligent injury for the crash that killed 35-year-old Cassandra “Cassie” Lynn Ellis. He was sentenced on Monday.
Abarcar faced counts of manslaughter and driving while intoxicated but those charges were dropped in a plea deal, West Hawaii Today reported.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kauanoe Jackson said Abarcar was trying to connect his phone to his car speaker when he drifted into oncoming northbound traffic and hit Ellis’ vehicle, which was headed to the beach for the day.
Jackson did not comment on why the allegations had changed from driving while intoxicated to driving while distracted.
Abarcar’s attorney, Jason Kwiat said impairment was not an issue. Abarcar has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and was taking his prescribed amount of medication, Kwiat said.
Kwiat tried to convince the judge that probation and community service was an appropriate sentence because Abarcar was fiddling with his phone and not speeding when the crash happened.
“It was distracted driving. Nick is devastated,” he said. “He is devastated he caused so much pain because he wanted to hook up his phone to the radio.”
Abarcar in court told Ellis’ relatives: “I am so eternally sorry for what I have done. I have caused unimaginable pain.”
He added: “Cassie is with me every single day. My greatest desire is to do something to make it right.”
Relatives of Ellis said they were disappointed that the more serious charges had been dropped.
They said they had hoped Abarcar would get a stiffer jail sentence so that the case would serve as an example of the dangers of driving distracted.