MIAMI - A fatal hit-and-run case came to a close with a plea deal Tuesday, more than three years after the crash.
Andres Romero, now 26 years old, will spend a year in jail but avoided 30 years in prison in a deal that included a guilty conviction at the insistence of the victim's brother.
"He took a life," said Marcellino Hill outside the hotel where he is staying before returning to his Connecticut home. "But I understand how the legal process is now."
Hill first travelled to Miami in late September 2009, days after his brother Theodore Hill was hit and left to die at the corner of Northeast 2nd Avenue and 15th Street in downtown Miami. A surveillance camera had recorded the crime and police pleaded for the driver to come forward.
Hillard Wiseheart told police Andres Romero was behind the wheel. He said the two had been drinking at Vagabond blocks away from where the crash happened before running down a man at the corner. Prosecutors recorded his deposition on cassette tape.
"I was definitely drinking. I, um, I had a lot to drink," said Wiseheart on the tape. "Andres was drinking. I don't know how much."
Wiseheart said they drove off and didn't stop until they came to a gas station on U.S. 1 near Coral Gables, hiding the car from view. They both had cell phones, he said, but neither called 911 right away.
Prosecutors could not charge Romero with DUI manslaughter without evidence of his blood alcohol levels at the time of the crash. Hill believes the law encourages drunk drivers to drive away from a crash and hide until they are no longer drunk.
"I think the crime should be stricter for people who leave the scene of an accident that results in homicide," said Hill.
Romero and his family declined requests for interview.
As part of his plea deal, Romero intended to plead guilty but changed his plea after realizing his case would be publicized on television news.
Romero is required to spend 364 in jail, 10 years probation, perform 500 hours of community service and will attend a panel with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
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