He admitted to speeding and texting while driving down Minnesota Avenue in the summer of 2012 and Tuesday, 22-year-old Brent O'Neal was sentenced to nine years in prison.
O'Neal crashed into motorcyclist Philip Sorensen and killed the 33-year-old Sioux Falls man more than 18 months ago.
O'Neal pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December and walked into court Tuesday to find out his punishment for causing the deadly crash. The crash happened the day before O’Neal’s 21st birthday. O'Neal told a jailhouse visitor after his arrest that he was texting shortly before he crashed into Sorensen's motorcycle and killed the son, brother, uncle and friend.
Sorensen's family shared their pain in court Tuesday more than a year and a half after the crash.
"We are now learning how to relive our life. We just want this to be over but we also want justice," Sorensen's sister, Megan Sorensen, said.
O'Neal ran from the scene of the crash and Sorensen's family members talked about O'Neal's behavior following the collision in court during the sentencing hearing.
"Sometimes actions speak louder than words. The fact that he took off running shows he just wanted to get away from there with total disregard of helping the ones he injured," Sorensen's father, Terry Sorensen, said.
O'Neal did stand up in court and address the Sorensens directly, apologizing for the pain he's caused and saying he wishes he could take back his actions that day.
“I’m having to regret this the rest of my life,” O’Neal said.
O'Neal's actions following the crash and his apology were both weighed by Judge Mark Salter as he handed down a nine-year prison sentence, which is less than the maximum 13 years O'Neal could have received under the plea deal.
"The judge took everything into consideration and for him to do all the different aspects like that that's all we could ask for. There are no winners," Terry Sorensen said after court.
And while Terry Sorensen knows the sentence won't bring his son back, he appreciated O'Neal's apology and hopes his family can now have closure.
"That's what we've been waiting for and I hope he means what he said. That's all we can ask for and hopefully someday we can forgive him and he can forgive us and we can just move on," Terry Sorensen said.
O'Neal was actually sentenced to 20 years in prison with 11 years suspended meaning he only has nine years behind bars, but that 11 years could be imposed if O'Neal breaks the law again once he's released.