Loophole in law prevented longer sentence
24-year-old received year in jail for role in fatal crash
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after a 24-year-old woman was sentenced to a year in jail for her role in a crash that killed a Macclenny youth pastor, many wonder why her punishment wasn't worse.
The judge sentenced Holly King to a year in jail for driving with a suspended license two years ago, the night she caused a crash that killed Todd Annis.
King was originally charged with a felony but it was dropped, and she only faced a misdemeanor charge because of a loophole in Florida's law.
That has Annis' family upset and asking for a change.
Annis' widow and parents say they are pleased that the judge sided with them, but he was bound by law to only sentence her to a year in jail. They said they hope things change so other people with suspended licenses don't get on the road and hurt anyone.
"So I firmly believe that Todd would want me to, and I know that I want to pursue getting it changed for future families," said Lauren Annis, Todd's widow.
She said this case proves that something needs to change. Lauren was in the car at the time of the fatal crash, which state troopers say King caused. The 24-year-old has a long history of traffic citations -- 25 in her lifetime, and four after the fatal accident.
At the time of the crash, troopers say King had a suspended license for failing to pay some of her past tickets and she knew it. That's why she was arrested and originally charged with a felony. But a technicality in state law would reduce the crime to a misdemeanor.
Because her license was suspended for not paying the tickets, she could only face up to a year in jail. If it was a felony, she could have spent up to seven and a half years in prison.
"I don't believe 12 months would be sufficient for this type of crime, just as it applies to this case," said Bradley Bodiford, who prosecuted the case.
He said now he's working with Annis' family to push for stricter laws when it comes to people driving with a suspended license and causing a fatal crash.
"Certainly we were bound to follow the law. That's our oath," Bodiford said. "Personally, as a citizen, I believe more punishment was necessary."
"The family has every right to say this is a problem with the law, and the Legislature should look at it and fix it," said attorney Eric Friday, who's not affiliated with the case.
Friday said the pastor's family can push for more laws, but it won't change their case.
"It can't be applied to Ms. King because we don't pass laws after the fact to punish somebody for a crime they've already been charged with," Friday said.
Annis' family says they know that. They understand how the law works. But they want to fight for changes so other families don't have to go through what they did.
Curtis Falgatter, one of King's defense attorneys, said he respects the judge's decision, but he wishes King didn't have to serve as much time in jail.
Falgatter said not everryone who drives with a suspended license can be made a convicted felon. He said after getting expert opinions, he does not believe King was driving recklessly. He said that defense experts also believe Annis was not wearing a seat belt. That has been debated since the time of the crash.
Falgatter added that the crash is terribly unfortunate but said it would have happened whether King had a suspended license or a valid one. Falgatter said it was an tragic accident and nothing more.
King sent a letter to the judge saying she's very sorry about what happened and that it all feels like a bad dream. But she said she was not driving negligently when the crash happened and she wasn't a criminal.
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