The fight against drunken driving got two new activists Friday: The 19-year-old daughter of a Mesa woman killed in a Labor Day crash and the driver who put her in the grave.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Alfred Fenzel sentenced Poya Reghabi to 10 1/2 years in prison for the Sept. 2 drunken-driving crash that killed Robin Johnson, 41.
"The only thing you can do is make something good out of the bad," said Johnson's daughter Brandy Johnson.
Brandy Johnson said she plans to volunteer for Mother's Against Drunk Driving and become an activist in the cause. She said she believed Reghabi's claim of remorse and that he will make a difference when he gets out.
Reghabi, 21, of Mesa, ran a red light at Gilbert Road and University Drive in Mesa at 3:30 a.m. and smashed into the passenger side of Robin Johnson's truck, causing it to skid into a semitrailer and killing her instantly.
Reghabi's blood-alcohol content registered 0.158 percent, which is nearly double Arizona's legal limit, 56 minutes after the crash.
"I'm going to try my best so when I get out I can help others," Reghabi said in court. "I just hope someday you can forgive me."
Reghabi's sister, Susan Reghabi, said she always believed drunken drivers who kill should be imprisoned for life, but the issue now has a face for her.
"The same face I've seen for 21 years of my life," she said. "You owe me an apology, I love you so much."
Fenzel said there is extreme sadness every time he sentences someone in a drunken-driving death, but it is important for the community to hear about the heartbreak and devastation, "for people who just won't get it through their heads — you can't drink and drive."
Deputy Maricopa County attorney Mark Anderson said Robin Johnson's loss extended to The Home Depot, where she worked, the Girl Scout troop she led, her four siblings and parents and her husband of 23 years and their three children.
"What worse things can you do than take away someone's mother?" Anderson said.
Brandy Johnson said her family endured the Christmas holiday season without their mother but that May will be a difficult month because it includes her mother's birthday, wedding anniversary and Mother's Day.
The Reghabis stood before the Johnson family and asked for forgiveness.
Gary Johnson said his wife probably would have forgiven Poya Reghabi if she survived and probably even hugged him.
"If that brings you any comfort, that is the way she is," Gary Johnson said to Poya Reghabi.
Poya Reghabi's attorney, David Cantor, asked Fenzel to give his client an eight-year sentence, so he would have a chance to reconnect with his 14-month-old daughter before she heads into the crucial development years of pre-adolescence.
Poya Reghabi was charged with manslaughter, which carries a punishment range of seven to 21 years in prison, but his plea deal limited the sentencing range to eight to 10 1/2 years.
Fenzel suggested he would have given Poya Reghabi more time if he could.
Brandy Johnson said the sentence "is extremely fair and just."
"I think a decade is long enough to learn his lesson," she said.