Ex-valet driver sentenced in pedestrian’s death

Posted at 11:49 AM, Jul 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-24 14:04:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A former valet driver who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of former VCU student 23-year-old Josephine Stone has been sentenced today.

Paul Gray Jr., age 27, was sentenced to five years with four suspended. Gray was found guilty on May 25, by Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley B. Cavedo.

At today’s sentencing, the victim’s younger sister, Teresa Varnier, 22, took to the stand to tell the judge about the impact Josephine’s death has had on the family. 

Teresa recounted how she used to talk to her older sister everyday and even lived in neighboring homes. Teresa went on to say that she missed seeing Josephine sitting on the front porch drinking coffee and reading the newspaper daily. 

Teresa recalled thinking, ‘my best friend’s gone,” after learning about her sister’s death. Teresa added that her mom has been unable to deal with her Josephine’s death.

Defense attorney John Rockecharlie addressed the judge on Gray’s defense. 

Rockecharlie told Judge Cavedo that “fate can deal us a very wicked hand at any moment.” 

While talking to the judge, Rockecharlie became emotional and said this was one of the hardest cases he has been involved after more than 20 years of practicing law. 

The defense attorney went on to say Gray was “not a villain.”  Rockecharlie said Gray–who is now suffering from post traumatic stress disorder–is depressed. The lawyer asked the judge not to sentence Gray to jail time. 

Instead Rockecharlie said Gray was dealing with enough with having to live with the memory of what happened, and having to live the rest of his life as a convicted felon.

Rockecharlie wanted the judge to “think outside the box” and grant his client community outreach–to help teach others about driving safely. 

But Judge Cavedo interrupted Rockecharlie and brought up Gray’s previous driving record, which includes a DUI and a conviction for Reckless Driving in 2004. Gray previously served 10 days behind bars for the reckless offense. 

Rockecharlie revealed to the court that while employed as a valet driver at the Hilton Garden Inn, Gray was working on a restricted license.  Rockecharlie added as a condition of his bond, Gray has not driven since January. 

But the judge said because of Gray’s previous driving violations, he was going to have to serve time behind bars. 

Before sentencing, Gray stood and turned to the victim’s family and tearfully said: “All of you sitting over there, I never thought anything like this would ever happen in my life.”  Gray also asked the victim’s family for forgiveness, saying he could never forgive himself.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Miller agreed with the judge’s decision to sentence Gray to time in prison.  Miller said Gray was “not a criminal,” but because he has shown “poor judgement repeatedly,” she felt he needed to serve time.

“He had a driving record that had exhibited reckless driving and reckless behavior in the past,” said Miller.  “Poor judgement when behind the wheel and so unfortunately he needed to be punished, particularly when there was a loss of life as there was in this case.”

During the trial, the judge originally said Gray was driving too fast for the conditions at the time. Gray was valet parking on a rainy evening at the Hilton Garden Inn downtown, and the judge said Gray’s view was obstructed.

Josephine was walking from Penny Lane Pub to the National Theater for a concert in downtown Richmond when she was hit near the intersection of 5th and Broad Street.

Gray was pulling a car into the Hilton Garden Inn garage when Josephine was hit.  Her husband, John Stone was with her at the time of the accident.  He too was in court earlier today, but family members said he left before sentencing because he was overcome with emotion.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Miller said at this time, Gray will have to serve the full 12-months behind bars.

Josephine’s family added she was buried on Halloween, the same day as her second  wedding anniversary.