An Annapolis landscaper who caused a Thanksgiving Day car crash that killed his friend was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in jail.
"You drank too much, you were speeding, you were driving recklessly, and you took another man's life," Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck said as he sentenced Jose A. Munoz, 43.
Manck said he was not taking into consideration that Munoz might spend months after completing his sentence in another jail awaiting deportation hearings. Munoz, in the United States on a work visa, is expected to be deported to his native El Salvador, where he has two children to support.
Suspending all but 18 months of a five-year prison term at the request of prosecutors, Manck also ordered three years of probation if Munoz is not deported.
Defense lawyer Peter S. O'Neill said later that he would ask Manck to shorten the sentence because of federal deportation proceedings.
He said he has another client who has been jailed 13 months awaiting a deportation hearing. "It's like you are serving two sentences," O'Neill said.
Munoz pleaded guilty last month to automobile manslaughter.
On Nov. 28, prosecutors said, Munoz was driving between 71 mph and 74 mph in a 45-mph zone on two-lane General's Highway in Crownsville and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent, about twice the legal limit.
Driving south, Munoz tried to pass vehicles driven by two friends, but a northbound Jeep approached. Munoz tried to avoid it by squeezing between the two southbound vehicles, but he rear-ended the one in front.
That vehicle collided with the Jeep, and Maximiliano Merlos, 34, was thrown from the vehicle and died.
In the courtroom yesterday, O'Neill said his client is remorseful for causing the death of Merlos, also of Annapolis, and asked for leniency. Munoz's relatives described him as having a good heart.
Munoz asked Merlos' widow, Karistina Donado, to forgive him.
"I ask you with all my heart," Munoz said.
Donado, with her 2-year-old son sleeping on her shoulder, listened silently. Only minutes before, she said in short remarks that she had no husband, that her son had no father and that she hoped that would weigh on Munoz.