Driver of car that killed Cole Coppola to serve time
A plea deal has been reached between state prosecutors and the woman who was charged with DUI manslaughter after 16-year-old Cole Coppola was killed in a car-versus-bicycle traffic accident on the 17th Street Bridge two years ago.
Jamie Williams, now 23, who pleaded not guilty after her arrest and was released from jail after posting a $100,000 bond, will enter a change of plea Dec. 1 in Indian River County Circuit Court, Assistant State Attorney Steve Gosnell said Monday.
If Circuit Judge Cynthia Cox accepts the new plea, Williams will be sentenced immediately. Gosnell said the plea bargain, which was approved by Coppola's family, requires Williams to serve time in prison.
There are still some minor details yet to be finalized, Gosnell said, but he doesn't anticipate any changes to the deal. Coppola's family will attend the 3 p.m. hearing at the Indian River County Courthouse and will be given an opportunity to address the judge before she hands down her sentence.
Williams' Melbourne-based attorney, Alan Landman, could not be reached for comment.
According to police, Williams was driving drunk on the bridge at about 1:45 a.m. on Sept. 27, 2014, when her 2008 Honda Accord veered into the bike lane and struck Coppola, knocking him off his bicycle, over the guard rail and into the Indian River Lagoon below.
An autopsy determined that Coppola, a John Carroll High School student from Vero Beach, died of multiple injuries, including broken ribs and brain trauma.
Police say Williams, who stopped immediately and called 911, submitted to a breathalyzer test, which revealed she had a blood-alcohol level of .14 – above the legal limit of .08.
She was charged with DUI manslaughter, misdemeanor counts of possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, and a traffic violation for failing to stay in a single lane.
Witnesses later told police they saw Williams, who worked as a bartender and waitress at the beachside Citrus Grillhouse, drink a glass of wine and a shot of tequila at Trattorio Dario, an Italian Restaurant on Ocean Drive.
They said she arrived at the restaurant's bar at about 12:20 a.m., after leaving work, and stayed until 1:30 a.m. They said she did not appear to be intoxicated.
Landman's position has remained the same since he was retained to defend Williams: "That she did not cause the accident. It's our contention that she was driving lawfully in her lane of traffic and the boy rode into her."
Landman said his accident-reconstruction expert would offer testimony supporting such a contention, which included the likelihood Coppola, nearing the crest of the bridge, became so leg-weary pedaling up a long, steep incline that he unintentionally wobbled and veered into the traffic lane.
Williams told police at the scene that she saw the bicyclists riding on the bridge – Coppola was trailed by two teen friends, Hunter Kraaz and Bradley Moll – and that the boy swerved into her lane.
Both teens initially said Williams' car "swerved" into the bike lane and struck Coppola. However, they were deposed separately and, without identifying them by name, Landman said the boy closest to the crash was unable to confirm where the collision occurred.
If convicted on the DUI manslaughter charge, Williams, who moved from Vero Beach to Brevard County to be near her parents, faces a mandatory minimum prison term of four years.
"As a prosecutor, I've got to do what's best in terms of the law, but homicide cases are always difficult, especially when the victim is a juvenile," Gosnell said. "Going through a trial can be very difficult for the victim's family.
"So I've met with them, discussed the case with them and consulted with them on the plea deal," he added. "They'll be in the courtroom."