A U.S. Marine who was driving drunk and caused a head-on crash in Mission Valley that killed two UC San Diego medical students in 2015 was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday.
Jason Riley King was found guilty on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter for the deaths of Madison Elizabeth Cornwell, 23, and Anne Li Baldock, 24, in January. A jury found him not guilty on two counts of murder.
"From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry," King said in court offering to pray every day for the families of the victims. "Know there will never be a day I don't hate myself for taking them from you."
Prosecutors said King drove drunk on the night of May 16, 2015, despite attempts by friends, a bar employee and bar patrons to stop him.
King left In Cahoots Saloon in Mission Valley and drove his lifted Ford F-150 truck into oncoming traffic on State Route 163. He collided head-on with a Toyota Prius.
Cornwell and Baldock were killed. Three other people in the car were also injured. All five were friends and UCSD Medical School students.
During trial proceedings, the prosecution told a jury about King's attendance at two military-sponsored anti-drunk driving events, one of which was just eight days before the deadly crash.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said that King's extensive knowledge about the dangers of drinking and driving stemming from weekly warnings and frequent stand-downs sponsored by his employer, the U.S. Marine Corps, was greater than the average person's and is why they pushed for murder charges.
When asked why he took off in his car despite his recent attendance at the seminars and multiple pleas to hand over his keys from friends prior to the crash, King told a judge it was because he was "ignorant."
King's defense agreed with the prosecution's assertion that King was solely responsible for the crash, but argued that the murder charges were too severe.
At his sentencing hearing, Cornwell's mother ask the court to take King's age into consideration when sentencing.
"Jason King was 21, foolish and wrong. Ultimately Jason King is responsible for his actions that night. We also feel he was let down by an experienced bar manager," Cornwell said.