YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Youngstown woman will not serve any jail time for crashing her car into a group of people gathered for a vigil in Youngstown last February.
Rochelle B. Taylor, 20, of Youngstown, was sentenced Thursday to five years probation and 200 hours of community service in connection to the accident. She also will pay $5,000 in restitution.
Investigators said Taylor had no driver’s license and didn’t know how to drive on Feb. 8, 2013, when she crashed into a large group of people gathered to mourn the loss of Robert Brown Jr., 23, on West Hylda Avenue. Brown died earlier that same week after being hit by a driver who also fled the scene.
The man who killed Robert Brown was recently sentenced to eight years in prison.
Investigators said Taylor turned on Hylda Avenue and panicked after she saw a large group of between 50 and 100 people at the vigil on the narrow road. She struck five people, including one, Tyler Austin, who was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center in critical condition, and panicked even more.
Five people were hospitalized because of the crash, including Chester Mitchell, 19, whose ankle was broken. He needed a plate and two screws inserted to repair the damage.
Taylor was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol that night, police said. Taylor was charged with failing to stop after an accident and obstructing official business.
It took police more than a year to track her down.
Taylor’s attorney, Ryan Ingram, told the court his client had been scared and reacted out of fear. Taylor had taken someone’s car without permission and was driving without a license.
Ingram said the crash was an accident and not malicious. He told the court the lights on the car had turned off, and Taylor did not know how to turn them back on.
Austin, who was 19 at the time, was in an induced coma for more than a week because of head trauma and has had multiple surgeries, with more planned, to repair a shattered leg. His medical bills are topping $500,000.
Austin spoke in court Thursday and asked the judge for a stiffer penalty.
“It’s not worth probation. It’s really not. And the $5,000 she has to pay me, my life is not worth $5,000 or probation. It’s worth years,” he said.
Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge John Durkin had some harsh words for her Thursday. He called Austin’s injuries “the worst he had ever seen” and said he considered the fact that Taylor left the scene to be the most serious crime.
Taylor offered an apology, saying she was remorseful and sorry.
But Austin said that was not sufficient.
“She said ‘OK, I just want to say I’m sorry.’ It was never directly towards me. She never came and told me she’s sorry. I was the one involved in this incident. She could have come and apologized to me,” he said.