A Reston man driving drunk when he caused a February chain-reaction crash that killed an 11-year-old Leesburg boy and the boy's uncle has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James H. Chamblin imposed a punishment tougher than called for under Virginia's sentencing guidelines -- between four and 10 years -- because Jose Martinez Orellana, 36, admitted that he was drinking and driving throughout the day of the crash.
Authorities said Orellana's blood alcohol level that Saturday night, Feb. 9, was more than three times the legal limit.
"Two innocent people were killed because you made a mistake, a horrible mistake, in judgment," Chamblin said during the Tuesday afternoon hearing. "I think that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia feel . . . that an individual should be responsible for the consequences of his own decisions."
Orellana was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee when he plowed into the back of a van stopped at a traffic light on Route 28 in Sterling, prosecutors said. The crash killed Manav Romesh and his uncle, Kumar R. Aiyar, 61.
The two were on their way to visit relatives in Ashburn for a family gathering, authorities said. Manav's father, Romesh Gopal-Krishna, driving the van, came to court Tuesday but was too upset to speak, prosecutors said. His wife, Rani Romesh, could not bear to attend, they said.
Loudoun County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Stephen E. Sincavage said in court that Orellana began drinking early on the day of the crash. Sincavage said Orellana had a beer in the car, then had some beer at a friend's house and later had a shot at a bar. He also drank from a small bottle of alcohol in his Jeep, Sincavage said.
"It's inexcusable, it's outrageous, it's egregious and it has to be punished," Sincavage said. "Just drinking and driving all day long. He never thought about the fact that drinking and driving would be a problem."
Sincavage said a harsh sentence was necessary to send a message that courts are tough on drunk drivers. "The court's sentence today will speak to the people of this commonwealth about how careful they need to be," he said.
In July, Orellana pleaded guilty in Loudoun County Circuit Court to two counts of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and one of driving while intoxicated.
Orellana apologized to the Romesh family in court and asked for leniency because he supports family members in the United States and in his native Honduras.
"I regret taking their happiness, and I know that they have lost their happiness," Orellana said. "If I could die so that these people could come back to life, I would do it."