It was a remarkable moment in the somber courtroom Friday when the companion of Morgan Fick Williams turned to the man who killed her in a horrific head-on collision in April and said Williams would have forgiven him.
King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller wasn’t feeling as magnanimous, however, and sentenced wrong-way driver Michael Anthony Robertson to 10 years in prison for vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, just six months short of the maximum sentence the law would let him impose.
Robertson, who remains in a wheelchair from injuries he suffered in the crash, tearfully promised the judge and Williams’ family that he would work to educate people about the perils of drinking and driving.
“I wish I could have known Morgan Williams,” the 25-year-old Robertson said after prosecutors played a video depicting her life and family. “She was the kind of person I strived to be, but lost along the way.”
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The 90-minute hearing was painful for everyone involved. The gallery was filled with Williams’ family and friends, many of whom repeatedly wiped away tears.
Her daughter, Erin Kinch, said her mother’s death was a “tragedy” and a “travesty,” but was “no accident.”
Robertson was awaiting trial for a December drunken-driving arrest in Pierce County and had five prior speeding tickets when he apparently made a U-turn and drove westbound into the eastbound lanes of Highway 520 early April 4.
He collided head-on with Williams, of Seattle, who was driving to her job at Eddie Bauer’s corporate headquarters in Bellevue. The charges said that state troopers found a nearly empty bottle of whiskey in the front seat and that Robertson, with two broken ankles, kept trying to get out of the car to “go home.”
“This was a preventable death,” Kinch told the court. And while Robertson has expressed remorse for the crime, including pleading guilty as charged to avoid putting the family through a trial, Kinch was unmoved.
If Robertson hadn’t driven drunk, she said, “then he would have no reason to be sad and remorseful today.”
Jerry Esterly, Williams’ companion for the past five years, told Robertson that he believed Williams would have liked to have known him, as well.
“You would have loved her. Everybody did,” he said. “Morgan has forgiven you. I have not. I am trying.”
Williams, Esterly said, had worked with inmates at the Monroe Correctional Facility while with Eddie Bauer, and she was disturbed by the effects of long prison terms.
Esterly, a longtime Seattle private investigator, told Robertson he believes Williams would want him to use his time in prison to better himself, “to learn so you can help others.”
“You look to me to be the saddest guy I’ve ever seen,” Esterly told Robertson, who has wept openly after every court appearance.
“You have powerful things to say about what happens when you drink and drive,” Esterly told him. “You could be a powerful voice.”
Mike Carter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-3706