By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 11:22 PM
A Clarksville woman pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court Tuesday to two alcohol-related charges in connection with a one-car crash that killed a University of Maryland classmate in October 2009 and severely injured U.S. soccer player Charlie Davies.
Maria Alejandra Espinoza, 23, faces sentencing Feb. 18 before U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton for involuntary manslaughter and maiming while driving intoxicated, both felonies.
"I plead guilty, sir," said Espinoza, whose voice was hushed and who briefly wept toward the end of the 15-minute hearing.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of eight years and five years in prison, respectively, but prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than 37 to 46 months under federal guidelines. Espinoza also must pay restitution to her victims and may face deportation.
Hilton permitted Espinoza, a Venezuelan citizen who has lived legally in the United States most of her life, to remain free on her own recognizance, but ordered that she give up her passport pending sentencing.
"This is a tragic case that highlights the fatal consequences of drunk and distracted driving," Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a written statement. "No prosecution can take back the events of that night. But we investigated the case . . . to hold the driver responsible for her actions."
Espinoza's parents, both physicians, clutched hands and her mother's head was bowed throughout the plea hearing. They left the courtroom without commenting.
Mike Roberta, 52, the father of Ashley J. Roberta, 22, who was killed in the accident, was overcome with grief in the courtroom and her mother, Jan Roberta, 59, was angry afterward.
"Our family was destroyed because of a drunk driver. She murdered our daughter," said Jan Roberta, of Phoenix, Md. "I feel justice is now finally happening. It has taken a year, one month and three days to come."
Jan Roberta said the family was considering civil litigation against Espinoza and others. Their lawyer, Charles A. Gilman, of Timonium, Md., declined to comment.
Davies's lawyer, John D. Pels, repeated his statement that the star forward "has left it in the hands of the U.S. attorney's office" and hoped to comment soon, including in a victim impact statement for Espinoza's sentencing.
In court documents, prosecutors said Davies suffered fractures to his right leg, left elbow, eye socket and nose; a torn ligament in his left knee; lacerated bladder; and "serious head trauma."
Davies, who was held out of the U.S. World Cup team and has yet to play for Sochaux's first team this year, has undergone "numerous surgeries and significant rehabilitative therapy," prosecutors said. They called his injuries "life threatening and permanent."