A former University of South Carolina student has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in the DUI death of another USC student.
It was one of the harshest DUI-killing sentences handed down recently in South Carolina, where drunken drivers who kill innocent people typically are sentenced to six or seven years, said Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Victims Advocate Council.
“A sentence like this sends a message to the community that this is not going to be tolerated,” Hudson said.
State Circuit Court Judge George McFaddin handed down the sentence for felony DUI involving death to Charles Davenport Jr., 25, during a lengthy hearing Thursday at the Richland County Courthouse.
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McFaddin sentenced Davenport to 25 years in prison — the maximum sentence — but suspended five years of that sentence.
Last November, Davenport was driving his pickup truck at an estimated 76 mph — more than twice the legal limit — and accelerating on Rosewood Drive when he rammed a moped driven by David Newell, according to evidence.
Evidence presented at the hearing showed Davenport had a blood-alcohol level nearly double the legal standard for being under the influence. He also had ingested Xanax — a sedative — and THC, a chemical that produces marijuana’s “high.”
Newell, a 22-year-old graduating senior from Maryland, just had finished his last exam at the Darla Moore School of Business when he was killed.
The combination of drugs and alcohol, along with Davenport’s excessive speed, were factors in McFaddin’s 25-year sentence, said Kimberly Cockrell, a victim’s advocate with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who was in the courtroom at the sentencing.
Along with members of Newell’s family, about 40 members of Newell’s Chi Psi fraternity also were in the courtroom and told the court about their loss, Cockrell said.
“Everyone spoke about how he had this wonderful, kind, caring nature, and a great sense of humor,” she said. “When people were getting off track, David was the one who sat them down and said, ‘You got to do better,’ ” she said.
“He had a childhood sweetheart and, right before the crash, he had asked her if she was going to say yes to him, if he asked her to marry him,” Cockrell said. “She spoke too. For all intents and purposes, she lost her husband. They were planning on getting married.”
Assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor Josh Golson prosecuted the case.
Davenport’s lawyer, Joe McCulloch, declined to comment. However, during the hearing, Davenport apologized, Cockrell said.
Newell’s mother also spoke at the hearing, telling the judge that, in the first grade, her son had written a composition pledging never to drink and drive.
Newell — who wears a necklace with the numbers 8,092 on it, the number of days that her son was alive — said, “There’s no being pleased with this because it’s a sad outcome for both families. But we do feel that justice was served.”
“All three of my kids came from Maryland to go to the University of South Carolina,” she said. “Three went. But only two came back. The judge sent a message: ‘We want your kids to be safe here.’ ”