Hike sentence

Cameron Herrin’s 24-year sentence in Bayshore deaths pleaded in appeals court

TAMPA — A state appeals court heard arguments Wednesday morning regarding the 24-year sentence Cameron Herrin received for his role in a 2018 traffic crash that killed a mother and daughter on Bayshore Boulevard .

In a 40-minute session, a three-judge panel from the 2nd District Court of Appeals questioned defense attorneys for Herrin and the state about whether a trial judge abused his discretion in applying the heavy sentence.

Part of the defense’s argument centered on the difference between Herrin’s sentence and that of John Barrineau, another teenage driver also involved in the accident, but who negotiated a six-year sentence.

“I think it comes down to the issue of guilt,” defense attorney John Fitzgibbons told the panel. “We just don’t see the light of day between them. It couldn’t have happened without them both performing.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Hurley argued that the trial court judge properly considered all of the factors required by law to draft the sentence.

“It was a judgment call,” Hurley said.As long as the court does its weighing and examines the file in its entirety. And yes, there were extenuating circumstances. There were also aggravating circumstances. … The weighing process is a matter of judgment.

Related: Appeal in Bayshore case raises questions of guilt and judicial discretion

Herrin pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide charges on May 23, 2018, the deaths of Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia.

The young mother from Ohio was visiting relatives in Tampa that day and was out for a stroll along the iconic boulevard, where a mile-long sidewalk parallels traffic lanes that straddle Hillsborough Bay. As she pushed her daughter in a stroller, Reisinger-Raubenolt got out to cross the roadway.

Herrin, then 18 years old, was driving a Ford Mustang at the time, a graduation gift he had just received from his parents. Barrineau drove alongside him in a Nissan Altima. Witnesses said the pair appeared to be running, weaving in and out of traffic lanes as they headed north from Gandy Boulevard.

Witnesses said the Nissan was slightly ahead of the Mustang but swerved just as Reisinger-Raubenolt entered the carriageway. The Mustang then rammed the mother and daughter.

From left to right: Lillia Raubenolt, her father David Raubenolt and her mother Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt. [ COURTESY OF DAVID RAUBENOLT | Courtesy of David Raubenolt ]

Herrin and Barrineau have both been charged with homicide while driving a vehicle. Barrineau then brokered a plea deal that carried a six-year prison sentence. Herrin chose to plead guilty, but left his sentence up to a judge.

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State sentencing guidelines suggested a minimum sentence of 18 years in prison. The maximum was 30 years. The defense asked to deviate from the guidelines, to bring Herrin’s sentence closer to what Barrineau received.

In an emotional day-long hearing last spring, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash heard from Herrin’s family and friends, who testified to his good character, the remorse he showed for his role in the accident and the devastating impact on his family. The judge also heard from the Reisinger and Raubenolt families, who detailed the anguish of their loss.

While concluding that there were justifiable reasons for a lesser sentence, Nash noted the harm the crime caused the victims’ family and imposed 24 years in prison.

Related: Driver gets 24 years in prison for Bayshore crash that killed his mother and daughter

The case has continued to generate public interest, including an online campaign driven in part by social media bots, which favors clemency for Herrin.

Speaking in the appeals court on Wednesday, Fitzgibbons pointed to the short distance between the two cars at the time of the collision. But for a second or two, it might have been the Nissan that hit the pair.

“I just don’t see the difference in guilt,” he said.

The court did not issue a decision on Wednesday. Courts of appeal usually take weeks or even months to decide a case.