Justin Nappi was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Wednesday to determine if there is enough evidence to send him to trial. Instead Nappi plead no contest to all of three of the felony counts against him.
Police say Nappi was driving a Chevy pickup under the influence of alcohol in November of 2012, when he crashed into a car carrying 10-year-old Jayden Thomas and his family. The family was on their way home from a peewee football game in Manteca Calif.
Jayden was killed and his parents and two sisters were injured. Nappi's attorney says he chose to change his plea to no contest because he wanted to publicly take responsibility for the crash and the pain it has caused the Thomas family.
"Justin feels really bad about everything that happened, and he pled no contest to all of the charges, admitted all the enhancements and he wants to express himself at his sentencing hearing and explain to the judge and ask for leniency," said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Defense Attorney.
Jayden's family members hugged in the hallway after the hearing and shared their mixed emotions. His mother says a guilty plea would have sent a stronger message.
"I'm kind of glad that we're getting to the end of this, but I'm not really satisfied with the no contest plea. It's kind of a way of not taking responsibility for what he's done and what he's put our family through," said Maria Thomas, Jayden's Mother. Maria Thomas says her son's death weighs heavy on her heart every day, but is especially painful during the holidays.
"It's been pretty hard. We're so used to our son Jayden coming and saying the things he wants, and we don't have that opportunity," Thomas said.
Jayden's family is now hoping others will learn from the tragedy.
"We'd just like to remind people at this time, especially with the holidays coming up not to drink and drive. Either stay where you're at, get a taxi, get a ride it's not worth it to lose a loved one. We don't want any other family to go through what we're going through," Jayden's Grandmother Viola Inguanzo said.
Nappi is facing a maximum of 19 years and eight months in state prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 6th.
Prosecutors have also charged another man, Jason Midiere with two misdemeanor counts for supplying alcohol to Nappi, who was 20-years-old at the time of the crash.