A Washington, D.C., man will serve six years in prison for the hit-and-run death of former USA TODAY national affairs reporter Oren Dorell.
Daryl Grant Alexander, 47, was sentenced Friday in D.C. Superior Court, the result of a plea deal reached in September.
Alexander admitted to drinking alcohol and smoking PCP before he rear-ended Dorell, who had been stopped at an intersection in Washington’s 1100 block of H Street NE on June 8. The collision pulled Dorell, who was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle, under Alexander’s Toyota Camry.
Witnesses stopped Alexander about a block from the collision. Dorell, 53, was rushed to a hospital and died early the next morning.
Originally charged with second-degree murder, Alexander pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and prosecutors agreed to drop charges of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a collision.
Because of his level of intoxication, Alexander told police he did not remember driving or hitting a person, authorities say. His inability to remember the event played a part in him filing what is known as an Alford Plea in which a defendant doesn’t admit guilt, but agrees there’s enough evidence to convict.
In an emotional hearing, Associate Judge Craig Iscoe sentenced Alexander to the maximum penalty under the plea agreement, which includes five years of supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. O’Connell had requested the tougher penalty. In a memo filed Tuesday, he wrote how Alexander displayed an “outrageous and conscious disregard” for the consequences of his actions, which were “wholly foreseeable” based on his intoxication level and the fact he was driving on a busy street on a Friday night. He added the case is made “more tragic” because of Alexander’s long criminal history, which includes disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and five prior DUI arrests, the most recent in 2016.
Alexander’s attorney Ronald B. Resetarits requested the lightest available sentence – five years – arguing it would aid Alexander’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Both Alexander and his family, many of which were in attendance, expressed remorse at the loss of Dorell and the pain caused to his family, Resetarits said.
Dorell, a former construction worker-turned-reporter, earned a reputation as a world-traveling journalist, dedicated father and husband, and beloved friend and family member.
His two decades in journalism included 13 years at USA TODAY as a foreign affairs reporter, inviting respect from fellow reporters, sources and editors.
Known for his bravery and perseverance, he covered the Iraq War and conflict in Ukraine, and was in Tahrir Square in Cairo when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned in 2011. He was on the ground for hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
Dorell’s wife, Ginny Knapp Dorell, fought through tears as she explained in open court the lasting impact of her husband’s loss, particularly on their two young sons, Malcolm and Leo. She explained how her husband would have wanted Alexander to get past his addiction.
In a letter submitted to Judge Iscoe, she explained Dorell as “the most alive man that I ever met” who “touched an untold number of lives.”
“He was my best friend and love,” she wrote. “I cannot convey the breadth and depth of the hole that was ripped in the world now that Oren is gone.”
Niva Dorell told the court her older brother was “the definition of a good brother and a good man.”
Before the judge issued his sentence, Resetarits read a letter written by Alexander in which he explained how he was ashamed by his action. He then turned and faced the Dorell family, and issued a short statement directly to Ginny Knapp Dorell.
“I am truly sorry,” he said.
In her letter to the court, Karni Dorell described growing up with her younger brother and the toll of his loss.
“Oren grew up to be an amazing human being with such a conviction to do right,” she said. “He is someone we need in the world today.”
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