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Plea agreement reached in DWI manslaughter case

Plea agreement reached in DWI manslaughter case

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By Andrew Hollins

Correspondent

After three years of delays and continuances, the DWI manslaughter trial of 23-year-old Noah Christopher Smith, that was scheduled last Friday was rendered obsolete, following a last-minute plea agreement between the Orange County Commonwealth Attorney’s office and Smith’s defense.

The trial’s glacial pace was due to several factors, not the least of which was the judicial state of emergency in Virginia due to COVID-19.

The case goes back to Dec. 23, 2018, when at around 2 a.m., Smith was driving his 2013 Chevrolet Silverado south on Rt. 20 in Rhoadesville, veered into the northbound lane and sideswiped a Toyota Tacoma before colliding head-on and driving over the top of a Honda Civic. Delmys De Jesus, 29, of Fredericksburg was driving the Civic, and was pronounced dead at the scene. De Jesus’ mother, Argentina Santiago, was a passenger in the Tacoma, and she was airlifted to UVA Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Other occupants, including two children, were transported and treated for minor injuries.

Smith’s blood alcohol level was .108, and Virginia State Trooper J.D. Jones stated that Smith smelled of alcohol. He was not injured in the crash and was taken into custody at the scene and charged with DWI.

Since the incident in 2018, the case has been handled by multiple prosecutors and heard before multiple judges. When the case landed in the hands of Orange County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert May, he said he wanted to give Smith the opportunity to do the right thing.

“[Smith] had shown some remorse previously, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions,” May said. “This case has been dragging on for over three years already, so it’s time to move forward.”

The plea agreement would see the two misdemeanor charges of underage possession of alcohol (Smith was under 21 at the time of the offense) and DWI dropped. He would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter DWI and maiming DWI, which are class 5 and class 6 felonies, respectively.

The judge has the ultimate say in the sentencing, but should the agreement be accepted by the court, Smith would receive a sentence of 15 years, with 12 years suspended, and he would serve three of them.

“Our plea agreement is actually on the higher side of the sentencing guidelines,” May said. “Smith doesn’t have a criminal background, and this is his first offense of any kind.”

In the State of Virginia, when a plea agreement is sought between the Commonwealth of Virginia and a defendant, the prosecutors are required to make the victims and their families aware of the terms of the agreement. May said that the family of De Jesus and Santiago were not happy with the terms, and that he understands why.

“It’s one of those things where I don’t think any sentence was going to be enough for the family, and I get that. They have lost someone they love,” he said. “I’m certainly going to let the judge know that the victims were unsatisfied with the agreement, and ultimately, it’ll be up to him.”

Smith’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 18, 2022, in Orange County Circuit Court.

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