James A. Jones chose to drink and drive for at least the second time on Feb. 23, 2018.

Since that day, a 65-year-old Ralston woman who was injured when he drove into her car has had to use a wheelchair and suffers from constant pain.

“I will spend the rest of my life, my golden years, trying to heal from the surgery yet to come,” Jennilee Edwards wrote in a statement to the court, referring to a “more than likely” surgery to amputate one of her feet. “I am now severely disabled and I live with excruciating pain 24/7.”

Tuesday, Douglas County District Judge Horacio Wheelock sentenced Jones, 32, to the maximum sentence of three years in prison on a charge of DUI causing serious bodily injury. Counting good time, Jones will serve a year and a half and was given credit for 253 days for jail time already served, meaning he has nearly 10 months remaining in custody.

Upon release, Jones, from Omaha, will be on probation for 18 months and will lose his driver’s license for 15 years.

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Just before midnight that February night, Jones was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Impala north in the left lane on U.S. Highway 75 between Dodge and Cuming Streets. The car veered into the right lane, hitting a 2001 Oldsmobile Intrigue driven by Edwards. Both cars crossed the shoulder and continued onto an on-ramp, eventually hitting the concrete barrier.

Jones told Omaha police he had drunk “two beers and a few shots.” Officers noted he had bloodshot eyes, a confused demeanor, a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and slurred, mumbled and thick speech.

His blood-alcohol level was .172 at the scene and .229 at Central Police Headquarters. His license had been suspended since the previous December, police said.

Prosecutor Cody Miltenberger noted that Jones had been arrested on a DUI six months prior.

Edwards suffered four broken ribs, right and left ankle fractures, neck and back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, she wrote in her letter.

“This is something that was clearly avoidable,” Miltenberger said. “There’s clearly an assumption of risk when someone gets behind a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.”

John Cavanaugh, Jones’ public defender, said Jones has a strong support system — his girlfriend appeared in court on her due date, pregnant with his second child, Cavanaugh said. Jones has a job lined up as a railcar cleaner and is remorseful, Cavanaugh said.

“I would like to apologize for my actions and being behind the wheel in the first place,” Jones told Wheelock.

Later, after the prosecutor spoke, Wheelock told Jones, “I sincerely hope, sir, that when you are released from incarceration, that you don’t drink and drive again.”

Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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