A Costa Mesa woman was sentenced Friday to seven years in state prison for driving under the influence and plowing down a Newport Harbor High School student in a crosswalk leaving her with a severe brain injury.
Dressed in a beige sweater and long, black skirt, Marnie Jo Lippincott, 39, wept as she addressed the court and apologized to her victim, Crystal Morales, who was 17 at the time of the accident. Morales required several months of rehabilitation after being hit by Lippincott's black Chevy Tahoe.
"I had no right to enter your life the way I did, I take 100 percent responsibility," Lippincott said while looking directly at Crystal. "I am so sorry for all the pain I caused you and I hope you can forgive me."
Lippincott was sentenced in a Santa Ana courtroom that was filled with family members and friends from both families. She cried as she listened to Crystal Morales tell Judge Walter Schwarm how the accident almost killed her.
"This really affected the independence I was supposed to get when I turned 18," Crystal Morales said. "I had to learn to eat again, walk again and speak, and I couldn't do anything by myself."
In September Lippincott pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving without a license and a felony charge of driving under the influence causing bodily injury, a charge that carried a sentencing enhancement for causing brain injury.
Schwarm said he was considering giving Lippincott six years and fourth months in prison, but decided not do when he heard she was kicked out of a rehabilitation program a few weeks ago for violating the rules and using drugs again.
"I do believe you have remorse, but there are consequences to these actions," he said.
Prosecutors say at the time of the , Lippincott was high on booze, oxazepham, temazepam, phentermine and methadone and, more than three hours after the crash, had a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. Gloria Morales, Crystal's mom, said on the day of the accident Crystal called and asked if she could walk home with friends to play video games.
The crash left Crystal Morales with head trauma, internal bleeding and brain swelling. Doctors later induced a coma.
"She suffered an indescribable amount of pain," Gloria Morales said. "I had to bathe her and feed her, and now she is left with lifelong disabilities."
Today Crystal suffers several deficits from the accident including daily migraines. She is unable to be left alone for long periods of time and cannot drive a car along with other effects from her brain injury.
"Sometimes she brushes her teeth with shampoo if she cannot find the toothpaste, and she takes a bite of chapstick when she is thirsty," Gloria Morales, Crystal's mom, said. "The selfish decision (Lippincott) made nearly took my child's life."
Court records show Lippincott has a string of convictions on charges ranging from burglary to obtaining prescriptions through fraud.
In March, city workers installed a pair of flashing lights at the school's crosswalk at Irvine Avenue and Margaret Drive where Morales was critically injured last year.
Monique Claudio, Crystal’s younger sister, still attends Newport Harbor High School and says her sister’s accident still haunts the school.
“Students from Newport Harbor fear crossing that crosswalk everyday,” Claudio said. "I don't think there is forgiveness today, or in a few weeks or maybe even in a few months or years."
After the crash, friends and community members held several fundraisers to help raise money for her medical bills.