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Ex-UNC tennis player pleads guilty in wreck that injured two

Posted September 14, 2009
Updated September 24, 2009

— A former University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill tennis player was sentenced Monday to 10 to 12 months in jail after pleading guilty to several charges in an August 2008 wreck that injured two women.

Chris Kearney, 21, of Irvine, Calif., pleaded guilty to two felony counts of serious injury by motor vehicle, two counts of possession of an altered or fictitious driver's license and one count each of driving while impaired, consumption of alcohol under 21, driving after consuming under age 21 and reckless driving to endanger.

Chris Kearney in court Student gets jail time in DWI wreck

Prosecutors dropped two charges of felony hit-and-run in exchange for the plea.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway suspended a second 10- to 12-month sentence and placed Kearney on probation for three years. He also prohibited Kearney from driving a vehicle for a year and ordered him to continue undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse.

Kearney, the Atlantic Coast Conference 2007 Freshman Player of the Year, faced a maximum sentence of about 12 years in prison on the charges.

Kearney's SUV veered off the road in the 200 block of North Columbia Street on Aug. 17, 2008, hit a wall and struck two female UNC students walking on the sidewalk.

He registered a blood alcohol level of 0.18, which is more than twice the limit the state considers as impaired driving for drivers age 21 or older. Police also said he had two fake IDs – one that he ordered off the Internet and a second one that belonged to a relative.

Carolyn Anne Kubitschek, 22, of Asheville, and Casey Marie LeSawyer, 22, of Weaverville, were seriously injured in the incident and had to withdraw from school last year while recovering.

Kearney apologized to both women and their families in court Monday.

"I am so, so sorry for getting behind that wheel," he said.

Kubitschek, who has returned to UNC, described in court Monday the trauma of her recovery.

"The pain was relentless. I thought, if this is what it is going to be like, I don't want to live," she said, adding that she expects to undergo more surgeries in the future.

"I don't feel it is my fault for being put in this situation, but the guilt of rearranging the lives of my family can be overpowering," she said.

Kubitschek told Kearney that she wants to forgive him. "I hope that you remember our story and find a better path for yourself," she said.

Her father, Ken Kubitschek, said the family has already forgiven Kearney, but he asked Ridgeway to sentence Kearney to at least a year in jail to send a message about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"We sincerely hope that Chris will understand the gravity of this poor judgment and become a better person for it," Ken Kubitschek said.

LeSawyer, who also has returned to school, spoke on Kearney's behalf, asking the he not be sent to jail. She said she has gotten to know "the real Chris Kearney" since the wreck and said he knows he made a mistake.

"It will do me no good if Chris is in jail. He will not be repaying any debts by sitting in a jail cell. It will just destroy something already broken," she said, noting that Kearney has been sharing his experience with other students in recent months.

32 Comments

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  • kiediss Sep 15, 2:41 p.m.

    Part of his probation should be that he care for the victims around the clock through the days of any follow up surgeries and dr. visits. He should have to be their personal slave.

  • Common Sense Man Sep 14, 5:06 p.m.

    "His actions should be reprimanded with penalties that echo the devastation that really occurred.

    It was an "accident". He was responsible, or should I say, irresponsible."

    Please explain to me how his actions constitute an "accident."

  • 5-113 FA Retired Sep 14, 4:58 p.m.

    Was it absolutely necessary to include the reference to the young man that he was an "ex tennis player" from UNC? What purpose could that serve? I'm not a UNC fan at all I fail to connect with that being useful information.

  • I like everybody Sep 14, 4:55 p.m.

    Tell you the truth, I'm surprised he got an active sentence. His mom and dad must not be loaded. Sentence sounds about what any old average Joe would get to me. No winner's in this episode that's for sure. I hope the girls recover 100%.

  • tarheelalum Sep 14, 3:43 p.m.

    He WILL be serving 10-12 months in prison. The SECOND 10-12 month was suspended...not the first. The three years of probation is in addition to the 10-12mos in prison. I think it's sufficient...much better than the NFL's Stallworth, who actually killed someone while driving intoxicated and only served 24 days.

  • avidreader Sep 14, 3:12 p.m.

    This coming from the mother of a 21 year old - he should have served some time. This is a society of non-consequences - the person committing the crime needs to suffer too, not just the innocent victims. No, I would not WANT to see my 21 year old in jail, but if he did this I would EXPECT him to serve time in jail.

  • exwife1956 Sep 14, 3:07 p.m.

    A crying shame....

  • kiediss Sep 14, 2:54 p.m.

    This is real joke. The guy nearly kills two girls, has a fake ID, and is intoxicated behind the wheel and gets this slap on the wrist with a suspended sentence? Money certainly talks in NC doesn't it. I can't fathom forgiving someone that almost killed my kid.....I would at least expect some jail time. Will he be in the waiting room for the future surgeries of his victims? I doubt that. Wake up.

  • luvbailey Sep 14, 2:53 p.m.

    10 - 12 months seems lite, but he does end up with a felony on his record, and that in itself is additional punishment - no firearms, right to vote, etc. Most employers will automatically reject an applicant with any felony, as will most colleges. He will not be back at UNC on scholarship.

  • jrfergerson Sep 14, 2:51 p.m.

    Another one with a slap on the wrist - boy that ought to teach him a lesson.

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