[Editor’s note: This story was published in Sun Sentinel in October after the sentencing. This week Michael Anguille was transferred to state prison to begin serving the remainder of his time. Anguille was once a freelance copy editor and writer for SFGN. ]
When it came time on Thursday for Michael Anguille to stand and face the woman he left paralyzed after driving drunk in 2014, he asked his attorney to step out of the way so he could have a clear view of Kim Smith, seated in her wheelchair at the back of a Broward courtroom.
"Ms. Smith, with all the sincerity in my heart and all the humility of my soul, I apologize for what I've done to you," the 31-year-old Anguille said to Smith, 57. "I'm infinitely regretful for the pain and suffering I've caused you physically and emotionally."
Smith, whose life as a parapalegic remains filled with pain and struggle, said she wasn't entirely convinced of his remorse , but was satisfied by the 12-year sentence imposed on Anguille by Circuit Court Judge Lisa Porter for DUI, reckless driving and two unrelated drug possession charges.
"I'm very happy that he's going to be off the streets, more than anything," Smith said.
Anguille spoke about his unstable childhood and being abandoned by his mother. A psychologist who testified said Anguille suffered from anxiety and depression. His Attorney Michael J. Entin said Anguille self-medicated with drugs and alcohol in recent years, but had no juvenile criminal record.
Porter sentenced Anguille after listening to a tearful statement from Smith, who spent a year hospitalized before moving into a Lake Worth apartment complex for seniors and the disabled.
Smith, who had had a 20-plus-year career helping the disabled, told the judge about her struggles in the early days after the accident as she had slowly come to realize that she was no longer a therapist who would help people to heal. She was now a patient, and would be a patient for the rest of her life.
"The wheelchair's exhausting. I have pain in my back, my rump, and all the way down the back of my legs from sitting in it daily. I've fallen out of it recently in the past month," Smith told the judge. "All over my body, I'm now aware that every system is now compromised, and will continue to be compromised and I will face more challenges.
"I now have a shorter lifespan due to the accident," Smith said. "Every morning I ask God, 'Why me? What did I do to deserve this?'"
Smith also recounted the toll the accident had taken on her family and the moments with them Anguille's actions had stolen from her. While she was hospitalized, her brother died of cancer and Smith could not visit him during his final days or attend his funeral.
She also missed her 91-year-old mother's move to an out-of-state assisted living facility.Smith's mother suffers from memory loss and, during weekly phone conversations, forgets her daughter can no longer walk.
"Every week I have to explain all over again that I no longer live in my house, that I was hit by a drunk driver and that now I cannot walk because of his actions," Smith said. "I have to relive it every week."
Anguille, of Boca Raton, had petitioned the judge for a lighter sentence than the nearly five year minimum in the guidelines. But Porter was unmoved, even though she said she believed he was remorseful.
Anguille pleaded no contest to the charges in August. Prosecutors asked for a maximum sentence of 19 years for his role in the Lighthouse Point crash. They cited Anguille's pattern of substance abuse and getting behind the wheel while impaired.
"The state believes he has an ability of causing a worse tragedy than what happened to Ms. Smith on the night of Sept. 14, 2014," said Assistant State Attorney Ksenia Saavedra.
Porter told Anguille, a college graduate with honors who later launched his own online marketing company, that he was "incredibly intelligent" and didn't "fit the mold of most defendants we see in court." But he had a serious addiction problem and ultimately forever changed Smith's life, the judge said.
Anguille, in a blue jumpsuit and shackled at the waist, stared straight ahead and did not react as Porter imposed the sentence. He will spend three years in county jail — of which he's received two years and 48 days' credit — followed by nine years in state prison. That will be followed by three years probation.
"You almost killed this woman: a year in the hospital, two months in a coma, respirator, paralyzed," Porter said to Anguille. "It's a crime that deserves punishment and I think you recognize that."