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Woman Avoids Jail Time For Death Of UNC Sports Reporter

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — A woman charged in a deadly hit-and-run was sentenced Wednesday for her role in a fatal hit-and-run.

Emily Caveness was sentenced to 18 months of probation and must work 200 hours of community service with youth for her guilty plea to misdemeanor failure to report an accident.

In October 2003, investigators say Caveness drove the SUV that hit UNC sports radio reporter Stephen Gates, who was fixing a flat tire on Interstate 40. After the accident, Caveness switched seats with Rabah Samara, a passenger in the vehicle and left the scene. Police charged Samara in the accident, but a jury found him not guilty.

In court Wednesday, George Gates, Stephen's father, talked about how the family is coping with his son's death.

"Our family and our lives will never be the same from missing the son who will never walk, smiling through our door," he said.

A deal cut with prosecutors allowed Caveness to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Before her sentencing, Caveness told the Gates family that she was deeply sorry for their loss.

"She, too, wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares," attorney Ann Peterson said. "It was a horrible, horrible tragedy for everybody and everybody's lives were changed that night."

The district attorney called it a hollow victory and Gates' father echoed that thought.

"Ms. Caveness accepted a plea bargain -- failure to report an accident, as if she had dented a fender in a parking lot and left no note," he said.

The Gates family has lobbied legislators for changes involving hit-and-run laws.

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