Cedar Rapids teen sentenced to 25 years
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A judge sentenced a Cedar Rapids man to 25 years in prison.
Zawadi Christophe is charged in two separate crimes -- a fatal crash from October and a shooting in July -- both in 2022. In July, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle O-W-I, and serious injury by vehicle reckless driving.
Investigators say Christophe was driving out of control on First Avenue Southwest about a year ago. They say he rear-ended a vehicle, which pushed it into oncoming traffic. 77-year-old Judy Hoover died and 73-year-old Joanne Swenka was seriously hurt.
”You’ve earned this prison sentence. And now in your age, you’re going to have the opportunity to decide whether you’re going to allow these two instances to forever define you. Or are you going to take advantage of being in prison, thinking about what you did, how you ended up here,” said Iowa District Court Judge Jason D. Besler to Christophe during sentencing.
Christophe also took an Alford plea to weapons charges for a shooting in Marion in July 2022 where no one was hurt. An Alford plea is where a person doesn’t admit guilt but recognizes there is enough evidence to be convicted.
Tuesday Zawadi Christophe received a combined sentence of 25 years in prison for the car crash and his involvement in the Marion shooting.
The judge said that the courts believe the sentencing today will give Christophe the best chance at rehabilitation based on his age - he is now 19.
”I’m confident that you do feel bad about what happened but unfortunately your irresponsibility, you’re inability to obey the laws ended up resulting in real tragedy and losing a loved mother, sibling, and grandmother. Resulting in medical care for another in Ms. Swenka,” Besler said.
During his time to speak, Christophe read an apology letter to the families of the victims, apologizing for his actions.
”Words can’t express or explain how I was feeling when I woke up and saw the article about the accident in which I was a part of. It broke my heart because it meant I was being tried in Ms. Hoover’s death and Ms. Swenka’s injury,” Christophe said. ”Hoover family and Swenka family- I take full responsibility of my actions and if I could go back and start over, I would have never got behind the wheel of that car.”
Joanne Swenka was in the courtroom during the sentencing but did not take the stand to speak.
Christophe also said in his letter that while in prison, he will be taking rehabilitation classes.
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