A Winter Haven driver has been sentenced to 40 years in prison and 20 years of probation for a fiery, high-speedcrash on Interstate 4 that killed two men in 2021.
Prosecutors said Jorge Britton was impaired by alcohol while driving his Audi R8 on the night of Dec. 15, 2021, when he struck the back of a Toyota Camry. The collision sent the Camry flying into the air and caused it to explode, killing the vehicle’s driver, Douglas Eugene Cade Jr., and his passenger, Jason Rzechula, both from St. Petersburg.
According to Florida Highway Patrol investigators, data from the sports car’s onboard computer shows Britten was going 154 mph at the time of the crash.
In April, a jury found Britton, 36, guilty of DUI manslaughter, DUI serious injury and vehicular homicide charges. During his trial, prosecutors had argued that Britton’s driving was so reckless that it justified the vehicular homicide charges.
Rzechula’s sister, Beth Smith, 52, was in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing and said 40 years in prison isn’t enough.
“I wanted life, but I guess we got what we can get,” she told the Tampa Bay Times after the hearing ended. “He’ll be away, which makes me happy.”
Family members of one of two men killed in a December 2021 crash look on as Jorge Britton is sentenced by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robin Fuson at the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Wednesday in Tampa. Britton, who was convicted in April of charges related to the fiery I-4 crash, received 40 years in prison. Pictured, front center, is Beth Smith, sister of Jason Rzechula, and John Rzechula, father of Jason Rzechula. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Smith said the thing she’ll miss most about her brother is his laughter.
“His laugh was just one of a kind,” she said. “When he loved someone, he just loved you with all his heart.”
Smith did not testify Wednesday, instead opting to write a letter that was read to the court.
“I hope you rot in prison,” she wrote, addressing Britton.
In past court appearances, Britton deflected blame for his part in the deaths of both men, according to the presiding judge and state prosecutors. But in court Wednesday, he gave his first apology to victims’ families.
“I would ask for your forgiveness, but if I were in your shoes I probably wouldn’t forgive myself,” he said.
About an hour after the crash, a blood alcohol test found Britton’s blood alcohol content was close to Florida’s 0.08% legal limit.
Britton had faced a sentencing range of 30 years to life in prison, but Hillsborough CircuitJudge Robin Fuson said life wasn’t an option in this case. He said that Florida law makes it impossible to sentence a defendant on a DUI-related charge without including probation.
“It requires that whenever DUI is involved, including DUI manslaughter, as in this case, the court must follow the sentence with a probationary period,” Fuson said. “… And because of that, you cannot enter a life sentence with following probation because it’s not legally possible to do that. So life goes out the window.”
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While sentencing Britton, Fuson spoke directly to him in the courtroom.
“You alone have destroyed the lives of at least 15 people in this court,” he said.
The night of the crash, Britton took a woman he said was a friend to a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game, where he said he had one beer before going to Penthouse Club, a gentlemen’s club on Westshore Boulevard. He left with his friend and another woman who worked at the club.
The two women — who shared the passenger seat in Britton’s two-seater sports car — were seriously injured in the crash.
Brooke Britton, wife of Jorge Britton, testifies on the stand as a character witness for her husband during his sentencing hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Wednesday in Tampa. Jorge Britton received 40 years in prison for a fiery crash on I-4 in December 2021 that killed two men. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Britton’s wife of nearly 10 years, Brooke Britton, took the stand with tears in her eyes. She spoke about their 9-year-old twin sons and Jorge Britton’s 15-year-old daughter.
“Her dad is her best friend,” BrookeBritton said. “I can’t fill that role.”
She asked the court to consider the role Jorge Britton plays in his children’s lives, taking them to baseball games and gymnastics competitions.
“He’s not a monster,” she said. “He’s not who people think he is.”
Jorge Britton, center, stands to hear his sentencing as it is delivered by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robin Fuson at the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Wednesday in Tampa. At left is Britton’s defense attorney, John Trevena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Britton parted ways with his initial lawyer after his conviction and was represented bydefenseattorney John Trevena in his sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Trevena said he wasn’t surprised by the length of the sentence.
He said state officials were “trying to demonize” Britton, and that media coverage of the trial may have influenced the judge’s sentencing.
“There’s so many issues on his case for appeal,” he said. “And really, that’s what my main focus is going to be.”