TAMPA — What happened on Bayshore Boulevard one day in May 2018 was horrible. About that, there is no dispute.
It is also undisputed that Cameron Herrin — the young driver who slammed into and killed Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt and her 1-year-old daughter, Lillia, as they crossed the iconic Tampa roadway — must endure consequences.
When he faces sentencing Thursday, Herrin’s defense attorney will ask a judge to consider his youth, the six-year sentence given to the other teen driver involved in the crash, and the payment of more than $6 million to the victim’s family in a civil settlement.
Herrin is “extraordinarily remorseful” for what he did, his attorney says.
A sentencing memo filed Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court states that Herrin poses no future threat to society. It describes the crime as an “isolated incident” that was unplanned and unsophisticated.
It happened on a stretch of Bayshore that spanned less than a mile. It took about 30 seconds.
“These 30 seconds were life-altering and life-ending for four individuals,” defense attorney John Fitzgibbons wrote.
Herrin, 21, pleaded guilty in late December to vehicular homicide and unlawful racing on a highway.
John Barrineau, the driver of a Nissan that witnesses said was racing Herrin’s car moments before the collision, also pleaded guilty, but agreed in a deal with prosecutors to a six-year prison sentence. Barrineau was 17 and Herrin was 18 when the crash occurred.
Herrin opted to let a judge decide his penalty. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. State guidelines suggest 18 years. Fitzgibbons says there is reason for the judge to impose much less than that.
A forensic psychiatrist is among the witnesses expected to testify. The court will also hear from people who knew Reisinger-Raubenolt and will speak about the impact of their loss.
“Our office is committed to standing up for these victims,” Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office, said in a statement. “We built the strong case that led to this guilty plea, and we will make a full presentation to the judge on all the issues related to sentencing, supported by testimony from many of the family members who lost their loved ones on that awful day.”
A key focus for the defense is the age of both defendants. The memo notes modern advances in brain science that have shown young people are less capable of appreciating consequences and thus less culpable for criminal behavior than adults. The science has spurred changes in the way the legal system treats young people.
Herrin had recently graduated from Tampa Catholic High School when the crash occurred and had plans to attend college. He had never been in trouble before.
His car, a Ford Mustang GT, was a graduation gift from his parents.
Just before noon on May 23, 2018, the teens left the Herrin family home for a local gym to work out. Herrin drove the Mustang. Barrineau drove a gold Nissan.
They stopped at a traffic light at Gandy Boulevard, then headed north on Bayshore.
The defense memo noted the testimony of a state witness, Mark Lewis, who was driving on Bayshore that morning and provided what was perhaps the most detailed account of what took place.
As Lewis drove north in the left lane, he said, the Nissan and the Mustang passed him on the right.
The Nissan stayed in the right lane. The Mustang moved over to the left lane. As they approached the intersection of Knights Avenue, Lewis said he could see Reisinger-Raubenolt on the right side of the roadway, about to cross.
The way the cars were positioned, Lewis said, the Mustang’s driver could not see the woman.
“I think the gold car realized that the pedestrian was about to step out,” Lewis testified. “And she probably thought, well, I’m – I’m heading to a crosswalk here. I have right of way. I can step out. Obviously, they were going at a very high speed. She obviously didn’t imagine that they were going at that speed.”
The Nissan darted into the left lane to avoid hitting her, Lewis said. The Mustang swerved right to avoid hitting the Nissan. Lewis saw brake lights. Then, the collision.
In the years since the tragedy, the Herrin and Barrineau families paid the Reisinger and Raubenolt families a total of $6.4 million in a civil settlement, according to the sentencing memo. The memo breaks down the exact sums: Herrin’s family paid $500,000. Barrineau’s family paid $200,000. Herrin’s liability insurance paid $500,000. Barrineau’s insurance paid $200,000. Herrin’s umbrella insurance policy paid $5 million.
The payments required “great sacrifice” for Herrin’s family, the memo states. They were forced to sell their home and move to a smaller one.
The money went to eight members of the Reisinger and Raubenolt families, according to the sentencing memo.
The memo notes that Herrin and Barrineau were charged with the same crimes. It asserts that they were equally responsible for what happened.
“We submit it would be a gross miscarriage of justice if Cameron receives a sentence exceeding John Barrineau’s sentence given the facts in this case of equal culpability,” Fitzgibbons wrote.
Herrin’s sentencing hearing is set to begin Thursday morning and may last into Friday.