19 Jul Former police officer who killed friend in DUI incident sentenced to 4 years in prison
A former Burlington Township police officer who killed a friend during a drunken driving incident last year was sentenced to four years in prison last Friday.
According to an article by the Courier Post, Ariana “Ari” Williams, a resident of Florence, was killed in the incident. Friends of Ari, who was 27 at the time of her death, said she was a happy and caring young woman who touched the lives of everyone she came into contact with.
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“Ariana Williams died in an early-morning crash in a car driven by Justin Rodriguez,” the article reads. “Superior Court Judge Terrence Cook sentenced Rodriguez to a four-year prison term under a plea agreement with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. He also ordered a 10-year suspension for his driver’s license.”
Rodriguez’s attorney had sought a three-year term claiming that Rodriguez, who was a rookie officer, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and became dependent on alcohol after responding to a murder-suicide about one month prior to the crash. In that incident, a township man reportedly killed his wife and 10-year-old son.
“Rodriguez’s car veered off West Front Street in Florence shortly after 2 a.m. on Sept. 23, following a night out with Williams,” the article reads. “He pleaded guilty in May to vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated.”
Rodriguez was reportedly remorseful for his actions in the courtroom on Friday.
“I realize there are no words I can say that will bring any of you comfort,” said the 26-year-old, who described Williams as an amazing friend. “I’m so very sorry, I can’t say it enough, said Rodriguez, who wore a dark suit and was led away in handcuffs.”
The victim’s father, Ronald Williams, said that remorse provided no relief.
Some of the 15 speakers on Friday called for a harsher penalty for Rodriguez. The judge reportedly acknowledged those feelings, saying that there are just some times when the law is inadequate.
Rodriguez had a blood alcohol level of .17 at the time of the incident, which is well above the .08 legal limit.
“Credit card records indicate Rodriguez had at least five beers, two shots of tequila and a margarita in the hours before the crash, the judge noted,” the article reads. “A can of beer was found near the driver’s side of the wrecked car, he added.”