Nearly 40 people wearing T-shirts reading “Pray for Justice: Zero Tolerance for Drinking and Driving” crowded into a courtroom at the Kent Regional Justice Center on Friday to hear King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough sentence Lagrant Pegram for vehicular homicide.
McCullough gave Pegram 147 months in prison for the vehicular homicide of 21-year-old Emmanuel Franco of Federal Way. Pegram must also refrain from contact with the Franco family and pay restitution for the incident. Upon Pegram’s prison release, he must participate in 18 months of supervision, participate in an alcohol treatment program, attend a DUI victim’s panel, have an ignition interlock device in his vehicle and wear, for one year, a bracelet meant to monitor alcohol intake.
Pegram faced a standard sentence range of 135 to 164 months, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. King County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim requested a 147-month sentence. Defense attorney Lee Rousso requested McCullough issue a 135-month sentence. The Franco family and friends hoped to see a longer sentence.
“No amount of time is going to bring the victim back,” McCullough said. “I’d also note that (Pegram), in my opinion, does express some remorse.”
Pegram’s criminal history played a significant role in his sentencing. Pegram has seven felony convictions and six misdemeanors, dating back to 1992. Pegram’s convictions include a DUI vehicular assault in which, at age 17, he stole and drove a vehicle while drunk, striking and injuring a person.
“I cannot, given this history, give a low-end sentence,” McCullough said. “That would not be appropriate.”
Pegram, 35, pleaded guilty March 12 to drinking alcohol, driving and running a red light at the intersection of Pacific Highway South and South 320th Street — where his vehicle, traveling at 40 mph, struck Franco’s car in the early morning hours of Dec. 29. Franco died at the scene. Pegram’s blood alcohol level registered at .242 shortly following the incident, according to court records. The incident was caught on Federal Way’s red light photo enforcement and Safe City cameras.
Pegram originally pleaded not guilty in January. He changed his plea because it was the right thing to do, his wife Makisha Pegram said at the time.
“My husband understands fully he’s not coming home,” she said. “He has to pay his debt to society. That’s not something he’s forced to do; that’s something he wants to do.”
The state and the defense made arguments prior to Pegram’s sentencing.
“It is time Lagrant Pegram is stopped from his criminal behavior,” Freedheim said. “It’s time for him to go to prison for a long time. That’s the only way to keep this community safe.”
George Franco, Emmanuel’s father, testified before the judge. In a steady voice, Franco described his son as a man of strong character, a man with encouraging words and helping hands who always gave of himself. Emmanuel left behind a legacy, he said.
“The death of Emmanuel, the first-born son in our family, has dislocated our lives in many ways,” George Franco said.
Angela Pak, Emmanuel’s girlfriend of four years, calmly described Emmanuel as a “silent giver” and recounted his dedication and fondness for his family. No words can describe the love she and Emmanuel shared and the pain of losing Emmanuel, Pak said.
“The truth is, we’re all lost, shattered and broken,” she said.
Jullian Franco, 18, fought back tears as he described his brother as a man liked by everyone who met him. Franco anguished over the fact that his only brother will not be present when he marries, and will not be around to meet his children.
“We were supposed to take on this world together,” Jullian Franco said.
A video of Emmanuel Franco’s life concluded the state’s arguments. Several audience members openly wept and passed boxes of tissues as they watched photos of Emmanuel flash across a television screen. The sentencing was the first time the Franco family saw Pegram or attended his court dates. They did not have direct interaction with him and remained composed and respectful throughout the sentencing.
Pegram’s defense and family also spoke before the court. Rousso said his client is truly remorseful and is a changed man. Pegram has dedicated his life to God and, upon his release, plans to help youth avoid the dangers of alcohol, Rousso said.
“He can help young people avoid making the decisions he’s made,” Rousso said.
Pegram’s 18-year-old daughter, Linea Pegram, told the court her father has been supportive of her. She fears for her father’s younger children who will grow up without their dad, Linea Pegram said. Lagrant Pegram has 12 children.
“Our dad has always been a part of our lives,” she said.
Lagrant Pegram, in a quiet voice, apologized for his actions.
“There is no one that truly understands the remorse I have,” he said.