Many of you remember the PBS show Zoom! of which Jared Nathan was an actor. Last Christmas he was killed in a drunk driving accident and the driver was recently sentenced.
NASHUA – Before he was sentenced, Gabriel King recalled the crash that killed his best friend, Jared Nathan.
King, 20, of Hudson, Mass., was driving Nathan, 21, of Nashua, and another friend, Sarah Chasin, from a friend's house in Hollis after midnight Dec. 28, 2006.
King had been drinking; his blood-alcohol level measured .07 percent nearly two hours after the crash, just below the point at which a person is presumed to be impaired.
The alcohol, King said, influenced his decision to take Ranger Road, and to drive his 1999 Toyota Camry at an estimated 68 miles an hour toward a crest in the road. With the wisdom of hindsight, King said he knows the car's wheels gained speed in the air, making it all the harder to control when it touched down at an angle and the suspension bottomed out.
"The car rolled and rolled," King said. "When I came to, I could hear Jared moaning over and over, and there was nothing I could do to wake him up."
King said he wanted badly to apologize to everyone, most of all Nathan – a college junior and actor who was among the cast of the PBS television show Zoom – and Nathan's family. He also wanted to apologize to the doctors who tried to save him, police, the lawyers, the judge and the scores of his own friends and family who came to see him sentenced to six months in jail.
"I'm sorry to everyone that had to be here today. I feel completely undeserving," King said. "I can't even say I'm sorry, because 'I'm sorry' doesn't do anything," he added later. "It doesn't do any good. It doesn't help anyone."
Unlike others who spoke on his behalf, King declined to characterize his actions as a mistake, saying the word belies the depth of the tragedy.
"It doesn't matter that it was a mistake," he said. "My best friend died that night, and it was just awful."
"Pleading guilty doesn't do justice to the guilt that I have. I'd like to plead really guilty," he said.
Nathan's parents declined to attend the sentencing, or offer any statement in court. The prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Kent Smith, and King's lawyer, Paul Maggiotto, both said Nathan's parents didn't want to see King jailed.
"They were unequivocal in that," Smith said.
King pleaded guilty without cutting any deal but knowing prosecutors were prepared to be lenient. He could have been sentenced to as much as 3-1/2 to seven years in prison, however, and a seven-year loss of his driving license.
Smith recommended 12 months in jail and five years loss of license, saying he credited King's character.
"This case is not unusual in the sense that somebody went out and killed their best friend in a carcrash. We've had bunches of those," Smith said.
Judge William Groff also noted how common vehicular homicide cases remain, and how people persist in flaunting their own better judgment.
"This is a serious, serious crime but it could have happened to just about anybody in this room, quite frankly, at some point in their lives," Groff said.
Groff said he was moved more by King's comments than any of the impassioned pleas for leniency by friends, family and educators. Even taking King's theatrical training into account, Groff said he was convinced his remorse and total acceptance of responsibility were "heartfelt and genuine."
However, Groff agreed with Smith that the crime called for jail time, even if King didn't. "Some crimes by their nature . . . demand incarceration."
"A human life has been lost as a direct result of what you did, and the sentence must reflect that reality," he said.
King will serve at least four months in jail, with credit for good behavior, and Groff ruled he may be released from jail during the day to give talks at area schools as part of the 400 hours of community service he must perform.
King will remain on probation for three years after his release from jail, and another six months will remain suspended for a year, Groff ruled. King has been free on bail while his case was pending, and Groff is allowing him to report to the county jail Jan. 11 to begin serving his sentence.
King is a junior in the drama program at Carnegie Mellon University and hopes to use his performing skills and his tragedy to warn other youths about the dangers of reckless driving.
King is working on a video that he hopes to present at area schools, if Nathan's parents approve it, Maggiotto said.
Smith was willing to allow King to keep working on the video on work release while serving his time, but Groff said jail rules would not permit it.
Nathan, too, was an actor, and a third-year drama student at Juilliard in New York City. He had performed with the Peacock Players, Junior Actorsingers and the Seacoast Repertory Theater in Portsmouth and was among the first cast for the 1999 reincarnation of Zoom, a PBS children's show.