Judge grants plea deal for Preston Maher - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Judge grants plea deal for Preston Maher

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During the plea hearing for Preston Maher, the courtroom was packed with supporters for Josie Freier and McKenzie Mott. During the plea hearing for Preston Maher, the courtroom was packed with supporters for Josie Freier and McKenzie Mott.
Preston Maher leaving the courtroom after judge granted plea of 60 days juvenile detention. Preston Maher leaving the courtroom after judge granted plea of 60 days juvenile detention.
McKenzie Mott's mother embraced after leaving courtroom. Judge declined her family's request for a longer sentence. McKenzie Mott's mother embraced after leaving courtroom. Judge declined her family's request for a longer sentence.
Preston Maher's father says he & son finally had chance to apologize to families today. Preston Maher's father says he & son finally had chance to apologize to families today.
KHQ.COM - - Thursday morning, Preston Maher plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of Josie Freier and McKenzie Mott and the judge granted the plea deal. This means Maher will serve 60 days  in juvenile detention. Maher has been given one week to get his affairs in order before he must report to the juvenile detention center.

The courtroom was packed with dozens showing up in support of the two girls who died last October in a car crash. Maher was driving the car and was attempting to do what is known as the "Ponderosa Jump" when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree.

The sentence negotiated in the plea bargain is less than the usual standard for vehicular homicide charges. The prosecution said they looked at accountability and rehabilitation in reaching the deal and that after reviewing and analyzing the case, they believed it was appropriate to lower the sentence.

The defense addressed the fact that no alcohol or drugs were involved. They said Maher was not driving recklessly but that he was simply an inexperienced driver and the road was poorly lit and dangerous. The defense also said the Maher family tried to reach out to the victims' families but were turned away.

Family members, friends and professionals testified on Preston's character and level of remorse including his counselor, father, the family pastor, a friend of the family who was in a similar accident and a teacher. 

Maher's Counselor reported that he has been seeing Preston for depression which he did not suffer from until the accident. The counselor said Maher feels guilt on a daily basis. The defense then read a letter to the court that Maher had given to his counselor. In the letter, Maher said he is "plagued with guilt and self-condemnation."

The defense also argued that the juvenile facility would be harmful to Preston Maher and it would disconnect him from his family. They also pointed out that Maher has deep remorse and is unlikely to reoffend.

Preston Maher's father took the stand and was very emotional while giving his statements. He said the accident has left their family devastated and that Preston puts on mask everyday to avoid a breakdown. In an apology to the victims' families he said, "if Preston and I have given the impression we're not sorry, that's far from the truth. We just hope you accept our apology."

The Maher family's pastor then said that he can attest the Maher family has shown a lot of remorse. The pastor said that many look up to Preston and that what's best for him is to have a minimal sentence.

A friend of the Maher family who was in a similar accident said he knows "Preston will have a life sentence." Preston's teacher said that "he is a wonderful young man and that few have his integrity."

Family and friends then testified on behalf of Josie and McKenzie.

Josie's father, Rick Freier, took the stand saying, "this is a bad thing and we're stuck in the middle of it." Rick said his family was informed of the sentencing guidelines but didn't find out until later that a plea deal was on the table. He wanted to go to trial for the girls and he said he doesn't "want anything bad to happen to Maher...I just think in the interest of the people of WA, there needs to be a sentence in guidelines. I hope he takes the blessing he got surviving and does something amazing with it," he said. He also said he feels guilt and he doesn't know how any of them are going to get through this.

Josie's sister said, "my heart is broken and my life is empty without Josie." She feels the sentence should be more severe and that Maher's behavior is not worth a 60 day sentence. She said it's "not about anger or revenge, it's about the law."

McKenzie's mother then took the stand saying "I only have memories, smells, the sound of her voice and dreams that wake me up at night. That's what brings her back. We live with this everyday. Our hearts are forever broken." She said her grandson asks his mom to go to heaven and bring McKenzie back. "We know there's no punishment that will ever seem just," she just wants accountability. She said all kids are good but their actions aren't. They must live with the repercussions. "This was a choice...McKenzie was amazing and exceptional... I can't tell you what our lives have been like the last year," her mother said. "They are gone forever, but not forgotten."

A firefighter then took the stand saying, "please help me when I go to work to not go to these accidents." He thinks a standard is being set with Preston.

Preston Maher finally took the stand saying, "words can't express how sorry I am. I think about what I've done. I take full responsibility. I continue to think about all the time I spent with the girls...McKenzie had a great sense of humor...I miss talking and laughing with Josie."






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