VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach man pleaded guilty to DUI charges after a crash that nearly killed a beloved Virginia Wesleyan University professor, and seriously injured her husband.
Robert Thompson, who was 72 at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of DUI maiming-victim permanently impaired and one count of misdemeanor DUI 1st for the crash on Northampton Boulevard on February 7.
Other lesser charges, such as using fictitious plates and operating an uninsured motor vehicle, were withdrawn.
Police said VWU professor Kathy Jackson and her husband, Joe, were stopped at a red light just before midnight on Northampton Blvd. at Pleasure House Road when a speeding, drunken Thompson struck their vehicle from behind. Thompson was clocked going 70 in a 55, after police had tried to pull him over.
The couple were “extremely injured,” prosecutors say, with their car sandwiched between Thompson’s car and the one in front. Joe Jackson broke several bones, and Kathy had the life-threatening condition of having her diaphragm detaching, causing her internal organ to push up into her chest.
She was saved by Virginia Beach emergency crews and doctors at Virginia Beach General, and spent days on a respirator in the ICU. She ended up staying three weeks in the hospital and now has a permanent scar on her chest due to an emergency incision to save her life. She also suffered a cracked femur and cracked lower lumbar vertebrae and sternum.
“I just want the whole thing to be over and this expedites things,” Kathy Jackson said. “We want the best for him and we are pleased that he realizes what he did and what happened and the consequences of it.”
Thompson has been in jail since the crash. His blood alcohol level was .21, more than two and a half times the legal limit.
“I think that he is very remorseful and very upset about what happened,” added Thompson’s attorney David Cardon. “He just wants to apologize so much to the people that he has hurt.”
Thompson told 10 On Your Side back in February he could not explain how he struck the couple, and said he did not remember hitting them.
“I said that to the police officer. I’m very sorry, but that was an accident … I didn’t have no intent to crash into anybody.”
The Jacksons have been in court for every hearing. They say they would like to talk with Thompson once this is all over.
“I just want to find out who he is,” Joe Jackson added. “I don’t want to go in there and yell at him or anything like that. We just want to know what led up this?”
Thompson’s attorney says his client’s son just passed away, and Thompson couldn’t be there for the funeral.
“He did pass away, but he wasn’t able to see him or talk to him,” Cardon said. “It was only because of his own mistake and he totally understands that.”
Thompson faces a maximum of 11 years in prison. He will be sentenced April 5.
WAVY’s Jason Marks was at court today and will have more coming up.
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