Drunk Driver Gets 15 Years For Fatal Wrong-Way Crash

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Woodbridge man who drove the wrong way, drunk, on Route 1 last year and slammed head-on into another car at 96 mph, killing the driver, was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday by a Fairfax County judge.

The sentence for Alfredo Martinez Rivera, 31, was imposed by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White and was one of the stiffest penalties imposed in Fairfax for a traffic death in many years, lawyers said. Although Martinez Rivera had pleaded guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, with a maximum of 20 years in prison, Virginia's voluntary sentencing guidelines recommended a range of three to nine years in prison.

The crash killed Robert L. Thomas, 53, who lived in the Groveton area of eastern Fairfax and was married with four grown children and a fifth adopted child. Thomas worked as a porter at the Harris Teeter groceries in Pentagon City and Alexandria, had just finished working a 16-hour double shift on a Sunday and was bringing home a jobless friend who needed a meal.

The friend, Franshaw Jackson, survived the horrendous impact, which occurred in the Lorton area about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 3, but suffered severe heart, chest and brain injuries. Thomas died at the scene.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon Shapiro said Martinez Rivera consumed 12 beers at a restaurant in Gunston Plaza with friends, then pulled out and began driving south in the northbound lanes of Route 1 at speeds that one witness said exceeded 100 mph. He stopped and crossed back over into the southbound lanes but drove so fast that he lost control, spun across the median and smashed into Thomas's car, Shapiro said.

Martinez Rivera was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where his blood-alcohol content was later measured at 0.20, more than twice the legal definition of intoxicated. Shapiro said when an officer informed Martinez Rivera that he had killed someone, Martinez Rivera replied, "He shouldn't have been in my way."

Crash data from Martinez Rivera's 2006 Pontiac sedan indicated that he was traveling at 96 mph at the moment of impact and that he did not apply the brakes. When a probation officer interviewed Martinez Rivera before sentencing, Shapiro said, he told the officer, "I don't think I was the driver."

Shapiro said Martinez Rivera "didn't show a drop of remorse" and asked White to impose the maximum 20-year sentence.

Thomas's widow, Kim Jackson, testified that her husband often brought home friends who needed something to eat or a place to sleep and that she frequently found people sprawled on her living room sofa.

He also gladly agreed to work longer hours when a co-worker didn't show up, Jackson said, and customers who came to his funeral told her that even though he had to clean up after others, "he still was always happy."

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