The family of a Nebraska woman killed in a car crash is furious about a judge’s decision not to heavily penalize the 21-year-old behind the wheel.
Relatives say his sentence of about three months is simply a “slap on the wrist” for a crime that shattered their world.
On Thursday, Jan. 12, Douglas County Judge Jeffrey Marcuzzo ruled Jonathan McDougald, a man charged with misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide for fatally running into a 35-year-old Regina Bright during a car collision in Omaha, Nebraska, in March 2022, will face 90 days in jail and two years probation, according to KETV.com.
The judge also mandated the young man seek evaluations for behavioral and mental health because it was determined during the trial his aggressive actions during the accident were intentional and motivated by anger.
Bright’s friend Precious Clark said in November after McDougald’s no-contest plea that “if he gets off of this, it opens the door for other young people to think that they can be mad and angry and go out.”
“And just because you weren’t drunk or under the influence does not give you a right to not be able to handle your emotions and go out and drive and be reckless and careless,” she added.
Police reports say on March 22, Bright was driving her 2017 Jeep Compass when she encountered McDougald on the roadway. They both attempted to make a left turn into the gas station at the same time. McDougald was speeding at 66 mph in a 35 mph zone when he crashed his 2011 Chevy Impala into her SUV, causing her unfortunate demise.
The collision of the two vehicles caused her Jeep to bang into a utility pole, spin clockwise and land on its driver’s side, Omaha.com reported.
Bright died on the spot.
McDougald sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to Nebraska Medicine to be treated.
The sentencing sparked outrage among those who loved Bright, with her mother, Veronica Constance-Bright, being one of the loudest voices.
“He killed my daughter. That’s just not enough,” she said after the decision.
The mother has long said she believes anyone involved in a fatal vehicular collision caused by that individual speeding should be charged with a felony.
“We pretty much have to leave it in the hands of the court and hope that this judge is fair,” she said. “Reckless driving should be a felony. Whether he was drunk or not, it should be a felony.”
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine told KETV that family and friends must consider all of the facts of the case. The charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“We understand the sorrow and frustration of (Bright’s) friends and family, but the circumstances do not warrant a felony charge,” Kleine said. “The courts have determined that excessive speed, without other factors, is not enough to make it a felony.”
Bright’s co-worker and friend Sarah Supenski echoed the bereaved mother and said, “It’s just not fair, in any way, shape or form, I don’t care what way you cut it.”
Those gathered said the sentencing was a “slap on the wrist.”
She and other supporters of Bright (and her family) wore shirts with her image on them in her memory to the courtroom.
Another friend of Bright’s, Anna Roark, said, “Today has been really hard. It feels like it is a second funeral for her.”
In response to the family, McDougald said he was sorry for what he had done and wanted to help the family.
One of her friends said, “It’s not going to do anything because it wasn’t justice. She deserves way more.”
Bright leaves behind two children, who were 15 and 14 when she was killed.
Constance-Bright said her daughter was “honestly all about love and laughter and hope and bringing people together.”
“That was Gina,” she said. “I never met anybody who didn’t like Gina.”