Bridgette Trice's voice cracked with tears and anger as she addressed Koua Fong Lee at his sentencing hearing Tuesday in a St. Paul courtroom:
"I came here with a feeling or a want to harm Mr. Lee or someone in his family, knowing that that's not right, just so he could feel just a little bit of the pain that's he's inflicted on my family.
"I lost my only brother, my only nephew and my 7-year-old baby. My life has been turned totally upside down."
Ramsey County District Judge Joanne Smith sentenced Lee to eight years in prison -- consecutive maximum sentences of four years each on two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. The judge stayed consecutive sentences totaling 4½ years for three counts of criminal vehicular injury. Lee was put on probation for up to 15 years and ordered not to drive any vehicle during that time.
Lee was driving east on Interstate 94 on the afternoon of June 10, 2006, when he took the Snelling Avenue exit and smashed into the rear of a car on Concordia Avenue, one of many stopped at the red light at Snelling. Javis Trice Adams Sr., 33, and his son, Javis Jr., 10, died at the scene. His daughter, Jasmine Adams, 13, and his father, Quincy Adams, were injured. Devyn Bolton -- Bridgette Trice's daughter -- was left a quadriplegic and died from her injuries in October at age 7. (Lee could not be sentenced for a homicide in her death because she was alive when he was charged and convicted, the judge noted.)
On Tuesday, Trice wore a T-shirt with a photo of her brother and nephew on the front, and her daughter, grinning and wearing braids, on the back. Devyn's photo also was in her heart-shaped earrings.
Lee sobbed as Trice spoke. But she was having none of that. During the trial, "he looked at pictures of my brother and my nephew and the car mangled like that and he showed no emotion, no anything. I think all this, what he's doing right now, is fake and farce," she spat out.
Two other family members spoke and the prosecutor read letters from two more.
Life without husband, father
"My life has truly changed forever," wrote Katrina Trice Adams, wife of Javis Sr. "I've now accepted the role of being both parents to my three daughters. It has been a struggle for us the last year and a half, not knowing how life is supposed to be without my husband and their father."
At the start of the nearly three-hour hearing, the judge said she had received letters from dozens of people who support Lee and his family. Near the end, it was his and his family's turn to speak.
After his sister, father-in-law, teacher and wife spoke on his behalf, Lee addressed the victims' family: "I want you to know that not a moment passes that I do not ask why," he said through an interpreter. "I grieve with you for your loved ones. If it were possible I'd do anything to turn the clock back and lessen your sorrow."
Then to his wife, pregnant with their fourth child: "Honey, be strong. Let one part of you be the mother and one part be the father. ... Please forgive me."
It was Smith who had the last word, and she called the case the most difficult she has presided over during her 24 years on the bench.
"No matter what I do, it's not going to be able to bring back the individuals who passed away nor repair the harm to this family," she said. "No amount of time will ever relieve the pain and suffering they are experiencing and will experience in the future.
To Lee, she said, "I would like to remind you and your family that you are a living human being, and that your family will continue to have you in their lives. Such is not the case for the victims' family."
Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551