Editor’s note: A story Tuesday about the fatal car wreck that killed a Graham-Kapowsin soccer player reported that driver Brandon Fair and victim Clara Vallone were friends. While Fair’s lawyer and some letters submitted to the court on his behalf classified the victim and him as friends, Vallone’s father said Tuesday the two barely knew each other.
Maybe Brandon Fair was just trying to be cool. Maybe he just wasn’t thinking.
Whatever the reason, Fair drove recklessly on a clear September day in 2011 and killed Clara Vallone, a 16-year-old soccer player at Graham-Kapowsin High School.
On Monday, he learned his punishment from the legal system: 1 year, eight months in prison.
But others, including another girl who was hurt in the crash and the judge who sentenced him, told Fair his real punishment would never end: The realization that he’d killed his friend over something as trivial as being late to a soccer game.
“He is going to be imprisoned for a period of time,” Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh said. “But there is a prison in his mind that will never release him from the pain that he knows he has caused.”
Fair, 22, pleaded guilty last month to one count of vehicular homicide and one count of reckless endangerment.
He admitted he was speeding down Canyon Road when he lost control of a red 2004 Dodge Neon, which hopped a curb and hit a utility pole. He had evidence of marijuana in his system at the time, but deputy prosecutor Tim Jones said lab tests showed it was old enough no longer to be intoxicating.
Vallone and her teammate Maryssa Beare, also 16 at the time of the wreck, were riding in the back seat. Vallone suffered fatal injuries. Beare sustained a number of fractures, cuts and contusions.
Some witnesses estimated Fair was driving at 85 mph. A county-employed accident reconstructionist later determined the Neon was going at least 57 mph just prior to the crash, court records show.
Deputy prosecutor Tim Jones told Rumbaugh on Monday Fair was “literally flying down Canyon Road” on Sept. 20.
“People use the word, ‘accident,'” Jones said. “Your honor, this was no accident. This was a totally avoidable, preventable collision that wound up in the senseless death of a young woman and serious injuries to another.”
Jones also pointed out that Fair has a history of driving without a valid license or insurance.
Vallone’s father, Tony Vallone, then addressed the court.
Vallone did not try to hide his anger or hurt, calling Fair “a coward” who tried to avoid taking responsibility for what he’d done.
“I think it’s sad what you put your family through, what you put my family through,” Vallone said as friends and relatives of the girl cried in the gallery. “I think you have no respect for anything. Quite frankly, I think you’re getting off real easy.”
Vallone said his family feels the loss of his daughter every day.
“She had so much going for her,” he said. “She would have done something in our society.”
Two days after the crash, the Graham-Kapowsin soccer team retired Clara Vallone’s No. 10 jersey, and the Eagles wore special pink jerseys for their next game to honor her.
Beare, who is mostly recovered from her injuries, came forward next to address the court. She told Rumbaugh she still cares about Fair and thinks he’ll suffer long after he’s released from prison.
Defense attorney Leslie Tolzin rose then to talk on his client’s behalf.
“This was an accident, and that’s all that it was,” Tolzin said. “It was an accident caused because my client was driving at a high rate of speed. He had two friends in the back seat who were late for a soccer game, and he was trying his best to get them there.”
Fair then took his turn, taking a moment to compose himself.
“I just want to apologize to Clara’s family,” he said as his relatives wept in the gallery. “I have two little girls, and there’s nothing I would do to take somebody’s kids from them. Not a day went by that a prayer didn’t go out to your guys’ family.”
Rumbaugh had the last word. He first acknowledged that “a life of promise, achievement and hope was prematurely ended.”
Then he went on.
“It is true as Mr. Jones states that this wasn’t an accident. It was a predictable consequence of reckless behavior,” Rumbaugh said. “It is also true that it was not a malicious act. It was not born of intent. There is not something that this court can do to make someone win here. There are no wins. ”