NORFOLK, Va. -- Rand Hooper called his deceased friend Graham McCormick "one of the greatest people I've ever met." He said "the safety of everyone at that house was my responsibility and for that I am sorry" before Judge Poston sentenced him to serve six years in prison.
It was the first time the Hooper, 36, of Richmond, spoke at his trial.
A Norfolk jury previously found Hooper guilty of involuntary manslaughter and failure to stop and render assistance in the 2017 Rappahannock River boating crash that killed McCormick.
A special prosecutor said Hooper was drunk while piloting his parents' boat. He crashed it into a bulkhead. The impact threw McCormick out of the boat. Hooper then left without trying to find McCormick. McCormick's body was later found in the water.
Prosecutors also said Hooper attempted to cover up his actions by making misleading statements to investigators and faking amnesia.
Hooper arrived in court Monday in a gray jumpsuit with his hands in shackles.
"The visual was accountability," Graham's brother Gordon McCormick said.
Lawyers on both sides said Hooper could serve anywhere from 65 to 85 percent of the six years season for good behavior because of a new law that takes effect on July 1.
One of Hooper's lawyers told the family that if Hooper served roughly 65 percent of his sentence he would spend 40 more months behind bars.
After the sentencing, McCormick's brother and sister said they finally felt free to move on with their lives.
"When I said I got my life back, I meant that," Gordon McCormick said.
"Today felt like the end of the roller coaster. I feel a deep sense of relief," Catherine McCormick said.
They both spoke at Hooper's sentencing hearing. So did Graham's parents and sister-in-law. Gordon's wife said the case held her husband's mind hostage for five years. She said it turned him into a shell of his former self.
"To be honest with you, my mind is blank for the first time in five years. There is something very peaceful about that," Gordon McCormick said.
On the other side, friends of the Hooper family testified on behalf of Rand.
They talked about how he was an Eagle Scout, a devoted spouse, and a wonderful father to his infant son.
Family friend Mignon Tucker said there had been a lot of "misinformation" in the press, and called the crash a "mutual tragedy, not just a one-sided tragedy."
Rand Hooper's father Gary Hooper sat outside of the courtroom and cried after hearing his son's sentence.
His mother, Lucy Hooper, declined to comment.
"I think Graham is relieved it's all over for us," Gordon McCormick said.
The Hoopers are expected to appeal the verdicts in this case. Judge Poston denied Hooper's request for bond.