The woman who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after a fatal accident in July of 2015 on the Pine Ridge Reservation was sentenced in Federal Court Friday. Sophia Janis was driving an Oglala Sioux Tribe Corrections vehicle eastbound on Highway 18, attempting to turn on BIA Highway 27 when she collided with a 2005 Chrysler minivan.
According to the factual basis statement signed by Janis, she was on her iPhone, looking at Facebook when she merged into the westbound lane too early, causing the collision. The driver of that minivan ended up having her lower leg amputated due to her injuries.
Passenger Theresa Martinez died days later from injuries sustained in the accident. A third passenger also was injured in the crash.
Martinez's son spoke to the court, describing the last moments of his mother's life in the hospital as horror. The driver also spoke out, telling Janis that she is not mad, but sorry for everyone involved. She expressed hopes that one day, her and Janis could come together and speak to others on the importance of not driving while distracted.
The prosecution argued for a probation sentence, citing no criminal history for Janis, and that she was a productive member of the workforce. The defense also wanted no prison time, saying the loss of a mother would greatly affect Janis's four children, all of which are under age ten. Janis did apologize for her actions, saying the whole tragedy was an accident and that she thinks about it every day. Judge Jeffrey Viken sentenced Sophia to 37 months in prison for the crime followed by three years of supervised release. The family of Theresa Martinez will create a $500 scholarship in her name, and Janis's father said the family would match that.