A night of alcohol at a Coral Gables wedding party, not fatigue, was to blame for the fiery car crash that killed two people, a jury decided Friday.
Jurors convicted Ervens Prudent, a DJ and college student who testified that he had merely fallen asleep at the wheel when he plowed his Toyota Corolla into a car at a red light in June 2013.
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The fiery crash on Southwest Eight Street, which killed Maria Martinez and Marlon Gutierrez, was captured on jarring video surveillance shown to jurors during trial this week.
After the verdict was read, Prudent’s relatives began wailing. Two women collapsed and had to be helped from the courtroom. “I love you! I love you!” one woman yelled as police officers took Prudent, 28, into custody.
He faces up to 30 years behind bars. Martinez’s daughter, Yuri Blen, told reporters that her mother and Gutierrez “got the justice they deserve” but noted the cries from the other side of the courtroom.
“No one is winning here,” Blen said. “We all lost someone.”
Said defense lawyer Ed O’Donnell: “We’re disappointed. Ervens is just a fine young man and it’s a shame that this happened.”
On the night of the crash, Prudent had been at a friend’s wedding at the Coral Gables Country Club. During the trial, Prudent told jurors he drank only a vodka-and-sprite and two champagne toasts and said he never felt impaired as he left the wedding reception.
Prudent claimed he fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t remember the crash. But the video footage showed him zooming down Eighth Street without ever losing control of the car, even passing up a slow-driving car before plowing full speed into Martinez and Gutierrez.
Despite his claims, Prudent could not overcome the evidence, including a test that showed he had a blood-alcohol-content level of .115, well above the .08.
“Today marks the day this family can begin the healing process,” said prosecutor Denise George, who tried the case with Lara Penn. “These drunk-driving cases are always difficult. Three families have been shattered. But the jury delivered a powerful message: Think twice before driving drunk.”