The driver who maimed the popular South Dade High principal in a drunken crash said she was ready to accept four years in prison.
But Marilyn Aguilera arrived hours late to court Friday. Under standard questioning by the judge, she bawled, waffled and asked about leaving prison early. The exasperated judge warned her to “act like a grownup.”
And just when it seemed that Aguilera, 52, was ready to accept guilt, she began to complain about her former attorney. “I wish I would have had a lot more time,” Aguilera said.
Prosecutor Laura Adams shot back. “Miss Aguilera does not have to accept this plea.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward shook her head and went a step further — she called off the plea deal and set a December trial date. Now, Aguilera is facing more than seven years in prison.
“Marilyn is a mess,” her new lawyer, Ana Davide, told reporters afterward. “Miss Aguilera was ready for this plea. It did not go down as we’d hoped.”
The plea deal fell apart more than one year after she plowed her SUV into a West Miami-Dade baseball field, ramming into Javier Perez as he coached his son’s little-league championship game. The SUV trapped Perez under the vehicle.
Aguilera smelled of alcohol and failed roadside sobriety tests. A large open can of Budweiser beer was on the floorboard. Blood tests later showed she was drunk by nearly triple the legal limit.
Perez’s near-death encounter — he lost his legs after nearly losing his life – stunned witnesses and students who knew him for his affable nature, signature bow ties and love of sports. Days after the crash, students held a candlelight vigil to support him while Internet and other events helped raise money for his medical bills.
In the months after the crash, he became an inspirational figure after undergoing more than 100 blood transfusions and 20 surgeries, vowing to one day walk back into South Dade High, on prosthetic limbs. He also spoke at a trauma-awareness event at Kendall Regional Medical Center, where doctors saved his life.
Perez and his wife attended Friday’s court hearing, but did not speak to the media. Adams, the prosecutor, told the judge they had agreed to the plea deal because they are “people of mercy, people who want closure to this painful chapter in their lives.”
The legal wrangling had been a tortured affair — Aguilera claimed a mental breakdown a few months ago, as her defense lawyer, Richard Gregg, negotiated a plea deal well below the 7-year sentencing guideline.
But last week, Aguilera fired Gregg, claiming she had not had a chance to review all the evidence. She turned to Davide, a former high-school classmate who is representing her for free.
Davide will now represent her at trial.