Former Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman was sentenced on Friday to 240 hours of community service for vehicular assault and fleeing the scene of a car crash that seriously injured a man in Bellevue last year.
In a joint recommendation between the state and defense, Judge John H. Chun granted Coleman a first-time offender waiver on the vehicular assault felony. He will be required to serve 240 hours of community service in six months, 12 months of community supervision and to pay restitution to the victim.
On the second count for hit-and-run attended, Chun ordered Coleman to serve 24 months of unsupervised probation, to obtain an alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and to attend a DUI impact victim’s panel.
During Coleman’s sentencing hearing at the King County Superior Courthouse, “second chances” and “forgiveness” resounded — including from the victim himself.
Kris Fine wrote in a victim impact statement that before the crash, he was the primary caretaker of his 92-year-old father and 82-year-old mother. But after the crash, his parents had to take care of him because of his injuries.
On Oct. 14, 2015 — exactly one year before the sentencing hearing — Coleman, 24, was driving his 2015 green Dodge Ram pickup truck at a high speed on Southeast 36th Street when he hit a car driven by Fine, 57, flipping it over and pushing it up onto a retention wall. The former football player then reportedly fled the scene and was located by Bellevue police officers a few blocks away. He later admitted to smoking a synthetic drug called “spice” shortly before driving that evening.
Referring to Fine’s impact statement, the state’s defense attorney Amy Freedheim noted that Fine lost out on the last year of his life because of his injuries, which included a broken collarbone.
“I truly hope [Coleman] understands the gravity of his decisions and reflects on the fact that he has not only been given a second chance to right his wrongs with society, but he has also been given a second chance at life,” Freedheim read of Fine’s statement.
She noted that the victim forgave Coleman in his statement and addressed the athlete directly: “You’ve been given a second chance, and I hope you put it to good use.”
Freedheim noted that Coleman, who is deaf, is a “role model to hundreds of thousands of people. His life story is inspiring, not only for the deaf … community, but all of us who celebrate achievement in the face of personal challenges.”
Freedheim said Coleman has “an amazing opportunity to teach and lead by example.”
During the sentencing hearing, Coleman’s parents also addressed the judge. His mother, May Hamlin, said her son is “very remorseful” for his crimes and that she “never condoned” her son’s behavior.
Derrick Coleman, Sr. also said Coleman was sorry for what happened.
“In life, there are good people and bad people and if you look at a ledger, I think my son is on the good people side,” he said. “So he’s a man of good character. Yes, he made a mistake, yes he intends to atone for that in the future … “
Coleman, who lives in Fullerton, California with his father, apologized for his actions and said he’s learned that “You can’t just go do what you want to do, you have to be respectful and abide by the law.”
Coleman’s attorney reminded the judge that in four days from the hearing, Coleman would turn 26 years old. He noted some of the athlete’s accomplishments, including that he serves as CEO of the No Excuse Foundation, which provides financial and educational support to hearing impaired children, teenagers and adults.
“This case involves a serious lapse in judgement and an accident that could’ve been much worse,” noted Judge Chun.
He added that Coleman has no criminal history and has accepted full responsibility for his conduct, as Coleman changed his plea to guilty earlier this month.
Chun said given Coleman’s personal story and good work in the community, he has served as an inspiration to many.
Chun read aloud one letter that Brendan Villafane, a 10-year-old boy from Connecticut, wrote to the judge.
“When I was in first grade, my mother showed me Derrick Coleman’s Duracell commercial. I started looking him up on my iPad. I wanted to know all about him because he was like me — deaf,” Chun read of Brendan’s letter. “I became a Seattle Seahawks fan because Derrick Coleman became my inspiration.”
He continued: “He taught me I can be whatever I want to be and being deaf can’t stop me from reaching my dreams. He is my inspiration. I know Derrick Coleman did something bad, but I don’t think he should go to jail. Maybe you should make him teach the world that we should not do what he did.”
The judge looked at Coleman and said, like this 10-year-old boy, “a good number of folks in the community, including children, have gone to bat for you. I hope you never let them down again and I hope you never let yourself down like this again.”