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Driver in fatal DUI crash gets 9 years in prison

Almost a year after Cristina L. Palese of Fairfax County died tragically in a head-on crash on the Capital outside Washington, D.C., the man driving the car that struck her has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Travis J. Isaac was driving drunk the wrong way on Interstate 495 when he collided with Palese’s car in Alexandria, according to the Washington Post. Isaac, whose blood-alcohol content was .16 – twice the legal limit – broke his leg. Palese, a 28-year-old mother of two, died instantly.

Palese was driving west on I-495 at around 3:30 a.m. on March 21 when she was struck by the eastbound Isaac. Prosecutors had a difficult case, the Post said, because there was only one indirect witness to the crash and because the force of the crash left the cars far from the point of impact.

In fact, the attorney representing Isaac tried to argue that it was the victim who was going the wrong way. Virginia State Police accident reconstruction experts were not permitted to testify about their findings that Isaac was at fault.

My colleague Randy Appleton wrote recently about another tragic fatal crash involving a wrong-way driver, the December crash on Interstate 264 in Hampton Roads that left a nurse dead.

The Post reported that Isaac was convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter by a jury after just two hours of deliberation. Despite his lawyer’s arguments, during the penalty phase of the trial Isaac took full responsibility for the crash.

"There are no words I can come up with that even begin to express how sorry I am for what happened," Isaac said, according to the Post. "I think about her children. I pray for her family every night. Every night."

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