Leroy Eley, his 33-year-old face creased in anguish, told a D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday that he hates himself for being the drunk driver who killed Anacostia High School basketball player Kelli Bradford.
"I guess I was in denial of alcohol abuse. I'm just so sorry all this happened," Eley told Judge Ann O'Regan Keary as Bradford's parents watched sorrowfully. "I despise myself for what I did that night."
Keary called Bradford's death an "immeasurable loss" and told Eley that his recent decision to seek treatment was a "long-overdue choice." She sent him to prison for 10 to 30 years, the maximum punishment for voluntary manslaughter.
In handing down the maximum sentence, Keary noted that Eley had a 1995 drunken-driving conviction and was awaiting trial on another drunken-driving charge--to which he later pleaded guilty--when he drove a car into the Anacostia junior.
"I believe you were on notice," Keary told Eley, who lived in the 600 block of Constitution Avenue NE before his arrest. "Indeed, you made a choice to put everyone's life at risk."
Bradford, 16, was crossing Maryland Avenue NE on March 2 when Eley sped through an intersection and sent her flying. He never touched his brakes. He said he never saw her. She died two days later, the day her Anacostia team defeated Coolidge in the city playoffs and dedicated the game to her.
After his arrest, Eley was belligerent. He yelled obscenities. He refused to take a breath test. He refused to submit to a blood alcohol test at D.C. General Hospital. One judge said he appeared "out of control drunk."
Witnesses said Eley had consumed at least 60 ounces of malt liquor, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa A. Howie, who called Eley's version of events "ridiculous." In return for a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter, the government dropped a second-degree murder charge against him.