A driver who fatally ran over a man and injured the man's wife and children as they walked on a Sunny Isles Beach sidewalk two years ago is heading to prison.
Joseph Franco, 28, pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular homicide in the 2018 death of Amir Pelleg as part of a plea deal. The plea, agreed to by the victim’s family, sentenced Franco to three years in state prison followed by five years of probation and a no-drive order.
Pelleg, 34, was walking down Collins Avenue with his wife Zulma and two young daughters when Franco jumped the curb and ran them over on July 1, 2018. Pelleg died at the scene and his wife and daughters were seriously hurt.
The victim's widow, his sister and his mother gave statements during Wednesday's plea hearing.
"The entire situation is hurtful for all the families involved and everybody got hurt one way or the other," Zulma Gillott Pelleg said.
Franco also read a letter he had written to the victim soon after the accident.
"Dear Amir, words cannot begin to describe how sorry I am about the terrible accident that ended your life," Franco said.
At the time of the accident, Franco was seen throwing away canisters of nitrous oxide in a nearby garbage can, and had been charged with DUI manslaughter and three counts each of driving under the influence. All of the DUI-related charges were dropped, but Franco also pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to sell nitrous oxide and tampering with physical evidence.
"While there were initially allegations that Joseph was huffing nitrous oxide at the time of the accident, these allegations were proven to be untrue," defense attorney Robert Reiff said.
If Franco violates his plea agreement after he completes his prison sentence he could face up to 40 years in prison.