A Stafford County jury recommended an 18-month jail sentence Tuesday for a man who was racing south on Interstate 95 with his wife and their 2-month-old baby in the car.
Dario R. Jovel, 23, of Woodbridge was convicted of racing and reckless driving, both misdemeanor charges. He will be formally sentenced on June 8 by Judge Michael Levy.
Jovel was convicted of the same charges in Stafford General District in December and was ordered by Judge Robert Reibach to serve eight months in jail. Reibach called Jovel's behavior "outrageous" while levying the jail term.
Hoping for a more favorable outcome, Jovel appealed the case to circuit court. That decision did not look good for him after Tuesday's outcome.
According to the evidence presented by prosecutor Jennifer Lindsey, Virginia State Police trooper E.W. Byrd was operating radar north of the Garrisonville Road exit on I-95 when two vehicles came through side-by-side at 105 mph. Byrd testified that his cruiser "shook" when the vehicles went by at the high speed.
The other vehicle continued south as Byrd began to pursue them, but Jovel took the Garrisonville exit in his new Honda Civic Type R and turned his lights off in an apparent attempt to not be seen by the trooper.
But Byrd caught up with the car in the Stafford Marketplace and noticed the woman and the baby in the back seat.
Lindsey urged the jury to send a strong message, saying there have been a number of fatal crashes of late in the area and that careless actions like the ones displayed by Jovel don't make the highways any safer.
Defense attorney Adam Calinger argued that the prosecution had not proven that Jovel was racing, and Jovel's wife testified that her husband is a safe driver who was simply excited about his new car.
Calinger tried to persuade Levy to allow Jovel to remain free on bond pending another possible appeal. Levy denied the request, saying Jovel no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence.
Because the convictions are misdemeanor, Jovel will have to serve only half of whatever time he ends up getting.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404