No one wanted to be in the courtroom this morning for something like this.
Not the scores of friends and family of Mario Bizier, the 56-year-old truck driver killed on May 6, 2020, as he swerved the loaded three axel flatbed Mack he drove for Gleckler & Sons Building Supplies to avoid crushing a drunk driver’s car that had catapulted in front of him on I-95 north of the Matanzas interchange.
Not the two dozen friends and family of Brooke Lorenzen, the 20-year-old drunk driver–18 at the time of the crash–about to be sentenced to prison for her felony. Certainly not Lorenzen herself, a slight, cherubic woman who could still be mistaken for a middle school girl, who’d cried through her plea hearing a few weeks ago, and who was crying again this morning, and would do so almost the entirety of the sentencing hearing. (See the crash report here.)
Not even the bailiffs, who have seen everything, or circuit Judge Terence Perkins, usually a poker face of impartiality, looked like he wanted to be there, though he was probably grateful he would not have to render a decision on Lorenzen’s punishment. He’d only have to go through the formalities of the sentencing.
The plea had been negotiated by Lorenzen’s attorney, Tim Pribisco, and Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis, who consults with victims’ families, in late July, sparing Lorenzen what could have been a much harsher sentence. Lorenzen was charged with drunk-driving manslaughter, a second degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, and a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in prison.
The court allowed for a so-called downward departure in the plea agreement, sentencing Lorenzen to three years in prison, which may well equate to two and a half years with gain time, or time off for good behavior. That’s to be followed by 12 years’ probation, also possibly cut short at the halfway point should she comply with all the rules. She will also have to fulfill 100 hours of community service, which has to be done at high schools or youth centers, and she has to speak of the dangers of drunk driving. Her driver’s license is permanently suspended. She has to write a letter of apology to Bizier’s family. She was fined only $2,000. She will be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing for the duration of her probation. If she violates probation, she could be back in prison for the duration.
Lewis, who has experienced many such sentencing hearings, ensured that the families of Bizier and Lorenzen filled pews on separate parts of the courtroom, though both conducted themselves well enough to earn Perkins’s appreciation. And in any case none of Bizier’s family members were there to cast stones but rather to speak of the man taken away from them, and also to forgive Lorenzen, again and again and again, in a way that may have proven even more devastating to her as she took every forgiveness with sobs.
“I’m not one to cast stones, I can’t judge, and I don’t hate her, there’s too much hate in the world,” Bizier’s youngest brother said, addressing the court and standing at the podium, a few feet to the left of Lorenzen, who sat at the defendant’s table. “I forgive you. I know you didn’t do it on purpose.” He said he wishes she takes the conditions of her probation seriously, and if she could with her addresses to students save one more life, perhaps Bizier’s death would not have been in vain.
Bizier’s son, Raymond, described his father as “a kind, loving man, always a hard worker, he would fill the room with his jokes, laughter and his smile, he would do anything for anybody.” He told Lorenzen: “Not only did you take my father from me, you took my best friend, and all I have left are memories. I don;t have the chance no more to make memories with my father.” He said she took a grandfather away from his grandchildren and the rest of his family. “I miss him so much, I miss his jokes, I won’t get no more text messages, no more phone calls, nothing from my father anymore.”
Again addressing Lorenzen, he said: ” You get three years in prison. And when you get it done, you get to come back out with your life still. I know my dad would want me to forgive you. But I’ll never forget what you took from me and my family.”
Charles Paxton, a fellow-truck driver who described himself as Bizier’s best friend, the best man at his wedding, described the loss to Bizier’s family and to himself, and described Bizier’s generosity before turning to Lorenzen. He described her punishment as “minimal,” giving her back her life when she serves her time. “I don’t hate you, I don’t want to hate you,” Paxton said. “You made a bad mistake, one that unfortunately a lot of us have made, it just resulted in dire consequences. Your family still gets to see you, your family still gets to talk to you, your family gets to have you. We don’t have that anymore. I forgive you too, as hard as it is. Because Mario would forgive you.”
“Make something out of your life worth making, because now you have to give back to others, because now you have to give back essentially,” he said. “Be what Mario was. Make your life bring happiness to other people, because that’s what he did for us.”
Lewis, the prosecutor, wanted the court to know what Pete Young, the now-retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator who investigated the case, had determined at the scene of the crash that early morning in 2020 (the crash took place at 3:19 a.m.) “Based on his his interpretation and his 37 years of doing this,” Lewis said, “he felt like Mario took defensive actions to avoid running over her car and killing her. So even to the day when he was involved with that situation and where it was a choice between him and the defendant, he’s still made that conscious decision. And this is from Cpl. Young, too, to take those evasive actions to avoid having to harm anyone else. So, all the things that the family says about him is true. And even to that moment where his life was imperiled, he still lived up to that.”
There was forgiveness, but Lorenzen also faces two civil suits seeking more than $30,000 in damages each–one from Bizier’s family, and one from Bizier’s company.
The defense did not put on any witnesses. There was no point, necessarily: the plea deal had been reached, only formalities remained. But it was surprising that even Lorenzen remained silent.
The witness statements over, Perkins sentenced her, read her the conditions of her probation, and directed her to the bailiffs, who took her fingerprints, one of the many small shocks to felons entering the prison system for the first time, though it would be among the mildest ones, compared to what’s ahead–the more clinical booking and mug shots at the county jail, the shedding of civilian clothes for jail and prison garb the next three years, the assignment of a cell, then the transfer to a state prison “reception” center in Ocala before finally landing at the prison where she will spend the next three years. The prison system is indifferent to families. It assigns inmates where it deems fit regardless of geography. There are five women’s prisons in the state.
The bailiffs, almost always professional and courteous to inmates no matter the circumstances or the crime, seemed especially so in this case, handcuffing her at the last minute (often, inmates are required to go through fingerprinting with their handcuffs already on), and handcuffing her with her hands in front of her rather than in back. She momentarily stood before her family, her hands as if in prayer, to her face, sobbing, before a bailiff ushered her out through the side door and into the system. Lewis by then had again ensured that Bizier’s family filed out ahead of time, so the two groups would not run into each other.
Me Too says
This is the sadest thing….for both side. Prayers for all involved. I pray this young lady gets through this ok and does what she has been asked to do, to make something of her life.
Tragic for all involved.
Sheryl Hirko says
Yes indeed, prayers for all 🙏🙏🙏
David Schaefer says
I wish she would have received at least 20 years in prison.
I can’t imagine how one lives without a driver’s license for the rest of their days. Such a sad story.
Driving on public roads is a privilege and not a right. The privilege only extends to those that choose to drive safely on those roads, and look out for their fellow human beings. If anything I think more people should lose their privilege to drive, distracted drivers who can’t seem to put down their phones for one.
The commenter is not entirely right. This from a case in the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, Orange County, Florida, case No. 2002-CA-2828, Sultaana Lakiana Myke Freeman v. State of Florida, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, June 6, 2003; opinion by Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe: “Although the Florida statutes use the term “driving privileges,” this does not mean that driving is a “privilege” rather than a “right.” The court recognizes that in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 US 398 (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the distinction between privilege and right is not meaningful when the benefit in question, i.e., being able to drive a car and thereby conduct normal life activities, is the same. So even if driving is a “privilege,” the government may not deny Plaintiff that benefit without showing that there is a compelling state interest that overrides her right to free exercise of religion.”
Paul Renault says
What would you say If she had killed your wife or husband or son or daughter ?
What would you say if it were your kind sweet daughters first offense of any kind? Human as we are we cast stones easily when it is not yours.
Lisa Diehl says
I am the Aunt of the young lady going to prison. We were outside of the courthouse waiting for our other family members to come out. The family of the deceased came out and as much as they could have been hateful and vindictive, they were kind and gracious. I told them how very sorry we were! I was able to hug his man’s son, daughter-in-law, and wife and we all cried. It was an awful day for everyone. As I continue to pray for my niece, I will continue to pray for their family. I can’t think of her without thinking of them. May God bless all of us involved and give us strength and peace.
Concerned Citizen says
I am sorry both lives were ruined in this incident.
These cases hit home hard for me. Many years ago I lost a girlfriend I intended to marry. She was hit coming home from a shift at the ER by a Drunk Driver. He got 18 months and probation. And because I was a Deputy Sheriff at the time I was pulled in for a stern talking to of leave him alone. He received justice. He later got out and got into another accident severely injuring someone and killing himself in the process.
DUI is a choice. Not a mistake. And a poor one at that. I guess I am harsh as I have no sympathy towards those who commit it. Between my time in Law Enforcement and then retiring from Fire Rescue I saw the result of it day in and day out. And there are way to many ways to get home safely these days. My wife and I make ourselves available on major holidays to our friends who may want to go party.
I hope she will be able to turn things around and learn to cope with this tragedy.
Raymond Bizier says
I am the son of Mario Bizier. It definitely was a hard and sad day for both families. But today there was some closure to the situation. Though nothing will bring my father back to me, i do forgive her for the mistake she had made. Its not it was something intensionally done it was just a very bad choice on her part. I do feel for the family of hers and i am truly greatful for her aunt and parents to be out there and apologize and hug us. We both lost something that day but she will be back home in 3 years. And i do pray for hwr to come out and do right in life and continue on.
I love you son.your dad will be missed dearly everyday.
Mario was my father in law. I know that people often speak of the deceased as if they lit up the room, but it was so so true for Mario. He was truly one of the funniest, most pleasant humans I’ve ever known.
My baby was 3 months old when Mario was killed and I’m so sad that she will never get to know him like we all did. He loved her so much.
Amanda Bizier says
I am Marios daughter in law and I cant thank you enough Lisa Diehl for waiting for us and the apology. We will pray for Brooke and your family. I pray that one day the hurt and pain eventually goes away or gets tolerable for both of our families.
Thank you again for today and God Bless
Eileen Araujo says
So sad…for everyone…prayers for all
Absolutely disgusting she only got 3 years. Not only was she driving under the influence while drinking underage she killed a man. A man that was a father, grandfather, and husband, etc. you don’t mistakenly get behind a wheel after drinking. I have no sympathy whatsoever for her and she deserves Atleast 25 years in prison. Once again the system has failed everyone who was a victim or family of a victim in a dui accident.
You fail as a human being of God and forgiveness. Again easy to cast stones when it is not your daughter. All are victims. She has a father and a grandfather. Uncles cousins. Everyone carry’s the pain. She will do great things. This will not define her. I pray for her family and for Brooke and know she will speak to her youth and change lives. God never gives more burden to one than they may handle. I pray for the the Bizier family may they find peace and forgiveness.
Poor little Sally blonde hair and blue eyes.
Everyone in the court is wringing their hands and dabbing their eyes over her sentencing.
If it was Jose, Mookie, Laqueta or even Abdul getting sentenced it would have been business
as usual. They would have been put under the prison. And no one would have blinked an eye.
This person made a conscious decision to drink and drive. Her actions took a life.
She got off extremely light. At a minimum the sentence should have been doubled.
One comment here wonders how she can live without a driver’s license for the rest of her life.
That comment speaks volumes.
Shortly after the crash , Brooke was on Social Media drinking and partying as if she had no remorse. Hard to feel sorry for her with that attitude she had.
I have know Brooke lorenzen for a very long time. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve had tried to stop her from drinking and driving. She would get violet with people who would try and take her keys. We were at a party together when cops came, wish I remembered the cops name, but he gave us a heart to heart talk about how he almost killed himself drunk driving and stressed to us to not drink and drive. A week later the accident happens. After the accident, I would still see her out and drinking at parties. I have no sympathy for this women, and majority of people who know her would say the exact same.
Concerned Citizen says
Please stop addressing DUI as a mistake.
DUI is a choice. And a poor one at that. No one forced you to get into your car and drive home. There are many options out there to avoid DUI.
DUI is a selfish act. That usually ends up making the wrong people pay for your poor choices.
The only thing I remember about Brooke from school is how unkind she was. I’m shocked that she’s getting only three years for taking away a man’s life and inflicting this on his family. It doesn’t matter if she didn’t mean to kill this particular man, she still knew that she was taking that risk when she got on the road. No sympathy for drunk drivers.
The Geode says
AMAZING the amount of sympathy for someone that KILLED somebody. Prayers for all involved? WHAT? If I didn’t believe in “white privilege” before, this is making me rethink my position on the matter. If someone killed someone in MY family, the LAST thing I’m going to do is pretend that it’s alright…
I wonder if y’all gonna have the SAME sympathy for the black guy convicted for murder because somebody else took drugs? After all, BOTH parties were complicit – this truck driver was innocent as hell
Amanda Bizier says
I pray you nor any of your family members have to endure what my family and I have endured. This has nothing to do with race, money or privilege our decision came from what my father in law Mario would have wanted, it came from 2 1/2 years of living with pure hate in my heart. I did not forgive Brooke because she is white or has money I forgave her so I could move on with my life and give my father in law some peace. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING the courts could or would have sentenced Brooke would have brought Mario back nor would it substitute for the life she took. Again I pray you never have to even begin what it feels like to be in my family’s shoes
Boy did she fool that courtroom. Pretending to have remorse. Someone so sorry that she was out drinking and driving in her rental car shortly after the accident. She has been partying non stop since this happened, still driving under the influence and still living life without a care in the world. People that really know her, know she gave the performance of her life to act angelic, sad and sorry. This is rich privilege at its finest. I feel so bad for the victims family, my prayers are with you. A life cut short by a careless human being who couldn’t even take the time to apologize in person to the family.
This breaks my heart but at the same time i’m not surprised to see only 3 years. I went to school with Brooke and she’s always been that white privilege with daddy’s money with the worst attitude towards people who weren’t like her and her family. She’s definitely so upset about what happening when she was out partying right after it happened and laughing about the situation on twitter. I’m sorry but Drinking and Driving is no “Mistake” especially if you went and did it multiple times after the accident. Prayers for Mario’s Family and Friends we all stand with you guys 🙏