NEW PORT RICHEY — Joshua Aaron Fieger wept Friday as he spoke about the teenage bicyclist he hit nearly three years ago, his mind in the haze of a prescription drug cocktail.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Justin (Dawson)," Fieger told the judge during a two-hour hearing on his own fate. "I pray for his forgiveness. I wanted to ask for the forgiveness of his family, but they are not here."
Fieger, now 22, was charged with DUI manslaughter and culpable negligence for the 2009 crash that killed Dawson, 19. Fieger pleaded no contest in June.
He faces up to 15 years in prison.
Circuit Judge Michael Andrews heard from attorneys on both sides Friday before postponing a decision on Fieger's fate until Sept. 14.
Assistant State Attorney Vin Petty sought the maximum sentence, after presenting testimony from a witness and Florida Highway Patrol troopers who investigated the crash.
Dawson was riding his Huffy bicycle south on Hicks Road near Bert Street, less than a half a mile from his home, when Fieger's truck slammed into him the evening of Dec. 9, 2009. Dawson died the next day. Kimberly Frazier testified that as she picked up her children from a nearby bus stop, her son screamed. She looked up and saw the aftermath of the crash.
"His bike flew through the air and so did he," she said of Dawson.
FHP Trooper Anthony Palese testified that he arrived to find Fieger's truck several hundred feet from the crash, turned onto a side street. Petty told the judge it was an indication Fieger had tried to the leave the scene but couldn't because the impact of the crash blew out a tire on the truck.
Palese testified that Fieger voluntarily submitted to a blood test at the scene, but he was not cited that day. Troopers charged him a year later, after toxicology tests revealed prescription drugs in Fieger's system, including Oxycodone, Xanax, Valium and Nordiazepam.
"This is a great deal of drugs here, and Mr. Dawson unfortunately died because of it," Petty told the judge.
In seeking a lesser sentence, Fieger's attorney, Clementine Conde, presented a psychologist who testified that Fieger suffers from depression and a predisposition to drug dependency.
"He has a history of abusing many substances," Dr. Scot Machlus testified. Machlus said Fieger's reading and math skills are at a fourth-grade level and he dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Machlus said Fieger needs treatment for depression and drug abuse.
Conde said her client understands he must serve some time in prison, but asked for the four-year minimum mandatory, followed by supervision and drug treatment. She told the judge that her client cooperated at the scene and also turned himself in once a warrant was issued.
Petty questioned whether treatment would work, as Fieger has been in programs for drug abuse in the past and "continued using drugs and committing crimes."
Fieger has been arrested nine times since 2005, including charges of resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, trespassing and driving without a license, according to Petty.
Petty said he has received no contact from Dawson's family regarding sentencing, but several of Fieger's family members attended the hearing. Conde said Fieger's mother was too emotional to testify, so Conde read the judge a statement she wrote on behalf of her son.
Melissa Coffey wrote that her son is a "good person," but acknowledged he should not "go unpunished."
"As a mother of five sons, my heart goes out to Justin's family," Conde read. "This is a tragedy."