Teens convicted in racing trial get probation
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Two teenagers convicted of street racing and killing a local mother and her children will avoid years in prison, a jury decided on Wednesday.
Christopher Yovino, 18, was sentenced to 90 days in a county jail and eight years probation on each charge and 300 hours of community service; Brett Taylor, 19, was sentenced to 90 days in a county jail and six years probation on each charge and 300 hours of community service. Both were convicted of three counts of manslaughter in the crash that killed Mayra Castillo Torres, and two of her four children -- her son Christopher Nuno, 14, and her six-year-old daughter, Katia.
When the sentences were read, Taylor's attorney put a hand on his back. There was a gasp on the defense side when the sentences were read and when Taylor sat down, he bowed his head in seeming relief.
Prosecutors had asked for prison time because said then that the boys had not shown any remorse.
"I would hope that in 90 days they would actually come to accept some responsibility for what they've done because we really didn't see that in the course of the trial," said Catherine Evans, chief of Vehicular Crimes Harris County District Attorney's Office.
And the judge imposed the jail time because she, too, didn't observe any remorse from the defendants throughout the trial. But Taylor's dad says that's not true.
"These kids have a lot of remorse. My son cried every night, just about, about this accident," he said. "Y'all don't see it. Nobody knew that but us. He didn't do it in front of a lot of people. He'd break down in a room and cry. It was bad."
Last September, Torres was in her minivan when the teens were racing each other down Gessner at speeds of up to 93 miles per hour. When Yovino's Tahoe hit Torres' minivan, she and her son were killed immediately. Katia later died at the hospital.
Taylor's car did not strike her but he was also convicted on three counts of manslaughter for taking part in the street race.
"Those guys are going to learn, what they did in those 90 days but they'll live with that the rest of their lives, of killing three people, which was my family," said Omar Nuno, husband and father of the victims.
The victims' family also had issued a statement immediately after the sentence was handed down. It reads, in part:
"The Nuno family doubts that Mr. Yovino and Mr. Taylor will ever fully understand how much their actions have affected us, actions which will continue to affect us for the remainder of our lives. Their choice to street race on Gessner that day resulted in the direct deaths of three beautiful people."
The husband and father of the victims has two more children at home ages two and eight.
The defendants will also be required to speak to teens at area high schools about the dangers of street racing as part of their probation.
The jury spent only about one hour deliberating in the sentencing phase of the trial. The teens avoided serious time behind bars because each count of manslaughter carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and an up to $10,000 fine.
Throughout the trial, the defense maintained that the incident was just a terrible mistake, while the victims' family says the boys need to be held accountable.
Lawyers for these two teens told jurors the teens used very poor judgment when they went street racing and killed three people, but say they do not deserve to go to prison. They add that no public good would be served in doing so.
"Every teenager does stupid things and these kids did stupid things. As a condition of probation they can get up to six months in the county jail, so there is a way to give both jail time and probation," Wendell Odom, defense attorney for Taylor, said. "But to send these kids to the penitentiary with people that intend to commit crimes, as opposed to people who do stupid things, I think that would be a shame."
Taylor cried throughout his mother's testimony, first as she described the onset of his Type 1 diabetes, blaming the illness for Taylor's troubles in school. And then he cried even harder when she testified that she had arrived after the accident and had walked up to the minivan to see Nuno inside.
"I couldn't tell if he was a boy or girl because he had an airbag over his face," Taylor's mother said.
Next on the stand was Taylor himself.
"How would you describe your acts on September 27th?" the defense attorney asked him.
"Stupid," Taylor replied.
And later, Taylor said "I'm never going to forget it."
A psychiatrist for the defense also had testified Wednesday morning that a teenager does not have the ability to make mature decisions like an adult does, because the part of the brain that controls judgment is not yet fully developed.
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