A millionaire Florida gym owner who killed an 82-year-old Uber driver with his yellow Lamborghini after a boozy lunch has been sentenced to two years of house arrest but no jail time as part of a plea deal that sparked outrage from the victim’s widow.
Roger Wittenberns, 62, learned his fate on Tuesday, after pleading guilty to counts of DUI manslaughter and DUI with property damage in the September 2016 death of J. Gerald Smith in downtown Delray Beach.
Under the plea agreement, the wealthy businessman was originally supposed to serve two years in the county jail, but a judge agreed to let Wittenberns serve out the term at his $2million home, followed by ten years of probation, owing to the defendant’s advanced age and failing health.
Florida businessman Roger Wittenberns, 62 (left), was sentenced Tuesday to two years of house arrest and 10 years’ probation after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in the 2016 death of Gerald Smith (pictured right with wife Eloise)
Wittenberns crashed his yellow Lamborghini Murcielago into Smith’s Uber car in Delray Beach, killing the 82-year-old driver
Police are seen inspecting the damage on the gym owner’s luxury vehicle just after the crash
Smith’s Buick took a direct hit on the driver’s side, causing the SUV to spin out
His lawyer said Wittenberns had suffered three heart attacks and has chronic back problems, reported Palm Beach Post.
‘This man will probably die in jail because he’ll never get the medical care he needs,’ defense attorney Marc Shiner told the court.
Wittenberns, who founded the Lady of America fitness club franchise, must also pay $20,000 in restitution to Smith’s family, perform 150 hours of community service and submit to random drugs and alcohol testing at his own expense, WPTV reported.
The victim’s widow, Eloise Smith, expressed her dismay upon hearing the terms of the plea deal.
‘There was no justice today,’ the mother-of-three and grandmother told the Sun-Sentinel after Wittenberns’ sentencing. ‘This man killed my husband. He was drunk. And because he’s rich, he’s getting away with it.’
Two months after her husband’s death, Mrs Smith filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wittenberns, which settled out of court last year for an undisclosed amount.
‘Money can never give me back my husband,’ Eloise Smith said. ‘This man destroyed our life.’
Prosecutors explained their decision not to take the case to trial, saying that it would have been difficult to successfully prove that Wittneberns was speeding at the time of the crash, according to CBS12.
Had he been found guilty of the charges against him at trial, Wittenberns could have been looking at up to 15 years in prison.
Eloise and Gerlad’s three grown sons could not attend Tuesday’s hearing in person because they live in Canada, but a prosecutor read in court their victim impact statement.
‘Our family misses him deeply every day. We miss his voice laughter and his joy,’ the letter read. ‘His [Wittenberns’] actions caused deep sorrow in our family.’
Smith, a retired real estate agent, had become an Uber driver to help pay his wife’s medical bills.
On the late afternoon of September 21, 2016, he was on his way home to have dinner with Eloise when Wittenberns’ Lamborghini Murcielago slammed into the driver’s side of his Buick Enclave at the intersection of Federal Highway and Northeast First Street.
As part of his plea deal, the millionaire (left and right in mugshot) was originally supposed to serve two years in the county jail, but a judge agreed to let Wittenberns serve out the term at home because of his medical conditions
Police said Wittenberns was doing 75mph before crashing into Smith’s SUV.
According to a report, a blood test performed less than an hour after the collision showed that the health club mogul had blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit.
Another blood test taken nine hours after the crash showed no traces of alcohol in his system.
When given a chance to speak on Tuesday, Wittenberns, dressed in a pin-striped suit and teal tie, with his graying hair swept back, read aloud a letter of apology, expressing remorse for getting behind the wheel of his car after sharing a dozen drinks with his then-girlfriend over lunch.
‘I should not have been drinking any alcohol and then getting behind the wheel of my car,’ he said in court. ‘I am extremely apologetic for all the days Mr. Smith will be missing with his children and grandchildren.’
Wittenberns took responsibility for his actions that day, admitting that he was the only person responsible for the crash.
‘I will carry this burden with a heavy heart for the rest of my life. I took a life. No words or actions will ever be enough to show sorrow and remorse,’ his statement read. ‘God knows my heart and soul. I am truly sorry for what I have done.’
After reading his sentence, Judge Laura Johnson addressed the defendant directly, telling him: ‘I hope you appreciate the grace you’ve been shown by the smith family.’