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Ex-college student gets 2 1/2 years in fatal crash

Wednesday - 8/29/2012, 3:48am  ET

BARRE, Vt. (AP) - A former Vermont military college student who packed six classmates into his car after a party last fall and drove drunk, then crashed, killing one student and critically injuring three, was sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2 years in prison after more than two hours of emotional testimony from the victims' families.

A judge accepted a plea agreement for Derek Seber, 23, of Gaithersburg, Md., giving him a suspended sentence of five to 12 years, with 30 months to serve, for the crash that killed Norwich University freshman Renee Robbins, 18, of Kentwood, Mich.

He called Seber a Jekyll and Hyde _ a smart, ambitious student who had been accepted into West Point but had a dark side: his growing abuse of alcohol.

"Can you imagine the concentric rings of sadness and pain and tragedy that your moment of poor judgment has created?" Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen said. "It has rippled down through the world. Look at the number of people who are here today whose lives are forever changed by your behavior."

Robbins' father, Mark Robbins, a Massachusetts state trooper, said he could never forgive Seber for killing his firstborn child. He said if he could convince the judge that the death sentence is appropriate, he'd try.

"My daughters and her friends simply wanted a safe ride home, not a one- way hell ride down a windy rainy road," he said. "You ignored their pleas to slow down and to stop driving recklessly. Your actions terrorized my child. While ignoring her pleas, you continued to drive in such a manner that ultimately killed my daughter."

Renee Robbins was seated on passengers' laps when Seber's car went off the road on a curve.

Police say Seber fled the scene of the crash by running a short distance into the woods, gave emergency responders a false name and then tried to flee the hospital. He was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit. Seber pleaded guilty in July to a charge of drunken driving with death resulting and no contest to a charge that he fled the scene of the crash.

Seber's family asked the judge for leniency, saying their son is deeply remorseful, attends grief counseling and alcoholics anonymous, and does volunteer work. They say he would be better off getting the message out about drunken driving than serving years in jail. Part of the plea deal requires him to talk to high school students about the crash.

Seber apologized to the Robbins family and the court. He said he was wrong to drive drunk, to not get a designated driver and to pack so many people into his small car.

"These crucial flaws in judgment caused six people to be hurt and one to be killed," he said. "Words are not enough, they will never bring back Renee. I can assure everyone in this courtroom that alcohol's only part in my future to prevent this mistake from happening to someone else."


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)