Crime

Her drunk driving took a beloved principal’s legs. Now she’ll serve five years.

Marilyn Aguilera pleads guilty to DUI causing serious bodily injury

Marilyn Aguilera, the driver who maimed the popular South Dade High principal Javier Perez in a drunken crash plead guilty in court today. She was sentenced to 5 years in prison plus 3 years probation.
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Marilyn Aguilera, the driver who maimed the popular South Dade High principal Javier Perez in a drunken crash plead guilty in court today. She was sentenced to 5 years in prison plus 3 years probation.

The woman who maimed a popular South Dade High principal in a drunken car crash at a little-league baseball field is finally going to prison.

After months of self-inflicted delays that included a positive test for marijuana, Marilyn Aguilera pleaded guilty Friday and accepted a five-year prison term, plus three years of probation.

“I am pleading guilty because I am guilty,” Aguilera told the judge.

In April 2016 Aguilera drove her SUV onto a West Miami-Dade baseball field, horrifying spectators, and rammed principal Javier Perez as he coached his son's little-league championship game. Perez was trapped underneath the SUV. He survived but nearly lost his life.

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.

Days after the crash, students held a candlelight vigil to support Perez 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.

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South Dade High School principal Javier Perez, right, speaks to prosecutor Laura Adams during a hearing in Miami-Dade circuit court last year. The driver who maimed Perez pleaded guilty on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. C.M. GUERRERO cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

“This tragedy caused my husband to be condemned to a lifetime of living without his legs. Every day since has been a struggle,” Perez’s wife, Maytee Perez, wrote in a letter read to the judge on Friday.

Aguilera, 53, had no real chance at winning an acquittal.

In July, Aguilera — after firing her first lawyer — appeared in court and said she was willing to accept four years in prison, followed by probation. But Aguilera arrived hours late to court, and began to cry while vacillating over the deal.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward warned her to “act like a grownup,” then called off the plea deal when Aguilera began to complain that she did not have enough time to consider the deal.

Marilyn Aguilera was ready to accept a plea deal of four years in prison, but showed up hours late and waffled so much that a judge set a trial date for December.

In December, Aguilera decided she would take seven years prison with no probation. But the judge ordered her drug tested and she failed, violating the conditions of her release from jail. Aguilera has been in jail ever since.

Finally on Friday, Aguilera pleaded guilty to driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury. Unlike in earlier hearings, Aguilera was focused and decisive. “I’ve had plenty of time to talk to my lawyer,” she said.

Perez and his family showed up to the first failed plea, but elected not to come on Friday.

“They do not wish to see her again,” prosecutor Laura Adams said.

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