Melissa Arrington has an inspirational idea for what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Her “sole mission,” she said Tuesday, is to start her own organization to warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Kind of like Mothers Against Drunk Driving only better, she explained.
It sounds like a great plan. But it will have to wait until 2018. That’s when Arrington will get out of prison – after serving time for killing someone when driving drunk.
I know this sounds cynical, but I doubt Arrington will ever get around to starting her own anti-DUI organization. That she hatched this proposal as part of a leniency plea to her sentencing judge makes me skeptical of her commitment.
Arrington’s own experience with such groups has been less than encouraging.
At the time she decided to get extremely drunk, then drove and killed a man, she was on probation with a suspended driver’s license for another DUI. As part of her probation, she had recently attended a MADD impact panel meeting, at which she heard people talk about the pain of losing someone to a drunken driver.
She apparently wasn’t paying attention. So now she wants to start her own group.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Cruikshank listened intently to Arrington on Tuesday as she stood in her orange jail jumpsuit, wrists shackled to her waist, and outlined her plan for a new anti-DUI group.
Then he threw the book at her, sentencing her to 10 1/2 years behind bars.
It’s a poor trade of time. Arrington will give up perhaps one-seventh of her life in return for ending the life of a man whom Cruikshank called “an enormously important and unique person in this community.”
That man was Paul A. L’Ecuyer.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day – the day before Arrington was sentenced – had been one of the most important days of the year for L’Ecuyer. Every year on the holiday he attended memorial events and handed out copies of a pamphlet that he created and paid to have printed.
The “Personal Mission Statement” that L’Ecuyer distributed included inspirational messages and a couple of blank pages where he encouraged people to “write down your dreams.” He hoped everyone would have several ideas they wanted to bring to fruition during their life.
L’Ecuyer had many such dreams. He lived a spartan lifestyle, riding his bicycle everywhere so he’d have more money available to help others. Just a week or so before his death, L’Ecuyer – who had only $600 to his name – spent $150 for a grocery gift card to give to a family on Thanksgiving.
He rode in competitive bicycle races, including El Tour de Tucson, to raise money for charities. He took part in a Tucson-Phoenix bike ride and, when it was canceled, continued it on his own, recruiting friends to ride and solicit pledges.
“He gave every ounce of his energy and every penny he had to try to make life better for himself and others,” one of his sisters, Anne, told Cruikshank.
L’Ecuyer excelled in a family of excellers. His older sister, Jeanine, is spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Napolitano. “He was weird and he was wonderful,” Jeanine told Cruikshank.
The incident that brought Arrington and the L’Ecuyer family to court happened Dec. 1, 2006. Paul L’Ecuyer was riding his bike home on Old Spanish Trail, south of Saguaro National Park-Rincon Mountain District. It was about 8 p.m. and his bike was well-lit with a flashing light.
Arrington, meanwhile, had been drinking at a bar.
Less than 11 months earlier, she had been arrested and charged with DUI. She was sentenced to two days in jail and 18 months of probation. Her driver’s license was revoked.
Nonetheless, on that Friday evening in December 2006, she left the bar to drive home. A woman driving behind her saw her run off the road several times.
On the far East Side, Arrington turned onto Old Spanish Trail. She again drifted off the road several times. The final time, she was so far off the road that she hit L’Ecuyer with the driver’s side of her truck as she tried to get back on the pavement.
He was thrown into the bed of her pickup, where he died.
When she was sentenced Tuesday, Arrington received close to the maximum prison time permitted. Cruikshank said that was partially because of the lack of remorse she exhibited in a telephone call from jail two days after the accident.
The call, as are all calls to and from inmates, was taped, and it was played in court at Arrington’s sentencing. On it, a male friend congratulated her on killing L’Ecuyer and told her she deserved “a medal and a f—ing parade because you took out a (slur for a gay person), a cyclist, a tree hugger and a Frenchman in one shot.”
Arrington’s response, captured on the tape, was to laugh. Cruikshank called that “breathtaking in its inhumanity.”
Now Arrington says she is ready to be remorseful – serving her sentence, turning her life around and working on her idea for her own anti-DUI group.
Pardon me if I don’t believe her.
Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV (Channel 6). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4662.