Days before Christmas, a former University of Florida student with a history of bad driving has begun serving a three-year prison term for the drunken, high-speed crash that killed his girlfriend nearly one year ago.
Adam J. Mandel, 20, of Weston also lost his driver’s license for life under the sentence imposed by Alachua Circuit Judge Mark Moseley.
Mandel, who is still fighting a civil lawsuit filed by his girlfriend’s family, will also serve three years’ probation when he is released. Police said he was driving a sports car 75 mph in a 35 mph zone when he hit a utility pole.
Separately, the university formally expelled Mandel, barring him from attending again as a student, and said it would consider banning him physically from ever returning to campus, according to a newly disclosed letter from August by the dean of students. Mandel completed his undergraduate degree before the decision; the school said it would not rescind it.
Mandel, who has declined interviews since the fatal accident, told the judge in a court filing – despite his record of speeding tickets and accidents – that the crash was an isolated incident and that he felt remorse over the death of his girlfriend, Kassandra Guzman-Ramirez, 20, also of Weston. Her parents, still suing him, said a prison sentence of three or four years was appropriate.
“We all continue to grieve as we try and heal a little more each day,” her parents, Mauricio and Sandy Guzman, wrote in a letter to the judge. They said their thoughts and emotions about their loss “could fill thousands of pages.”
The DUI manslaughter case against Mandel generated headlines across Florida because, in a bizarre twist, the accident occurred just blocks away from an intersection where Mandel had crashed his car two years earlier in a careless driving wreck, and one day after Mandel pleaded not guilty to unrelated speeding charges in Broward County in the same sports car. He changed his plea in October in that case and must pay a $90 fine by Feb. 19.
Days after Mandel pleaded guilty and agreed to a 4-year prison term, he remained in the county jail. It was unclear whether he will be sent to a state prison: He was being turned over to the Department of Corrections but sentenced to three years as a youthful offender, which allows defendants to serve sentences up to six years in county jails. He had faced up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine.
Police said Mandel’s blood-alcohol level was .12, above Florida’s legal limit, and he had marijuana in his system. The passenger side of his car struck the pole in the crash, and his girlfriend suffered 14 broken ribs, a nearly severed leg, a broken pelvis and lacerated liver and lung, according to the autopsy report.
Despite Mandel telling the judge he felt badly about the crash, police said he was behaving weirdly at the scene after they pulled him from the wreckage, laughing, disputing that he had been in a crash and accusing his dying girlfriend of “just playing.” The officers’ outrage was captured on their body cameras.
“It took everything, I just wanted to reach out and strangle him,” Gainesville police Officer Owen Osborne told a colleague at the scene.
Mandel’s mother, Radmila, said in a letter that her son would come home after the accident “crying and devastated, questioning his own being and his life.”
“In a fair, modern society, we need to find the balance between the punishment and opportunity to redeem ourselves, learn from our mistakes and do good in order to make difference in our and other people’s lives,” she wrote.
Court records said Mandel has been seeing a psychiatrist monthly since June. His doctor, Daniel Bober of Hollywood, Florida, told the judge that Mandel “has shown genuine remorse for his actions and has learned from the experience.”
The university’s disciplinary system found Mandel responsible for alcohol violations, drunken driving, physically endangering others and breaking the law – but acquitted him of a drug charge.
In the civil lawsuit against him and his mother, the Mandels through their lawyers have asked the judge to dismiss the claim, saying the allegations against them were so vague that “the defendant is left guessing and cannot be expected to prepare a defense.” They also said Guzman-Ramirez’s parents did not properly identify themselves in court papers as her survivors.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org