ELYRIA — When Nicole Cox appeared in court Friday for sentencing after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular assault for her role in a 2016 head-on crash, she expected to be sentenced to two years in prison.
However, when she was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs, her sentence had more than doubled.
Cox, 30, of Lorain, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular assault, driving under suspension, two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence and vehicles traveling in opposite directions Feb. 6, according to court records.
About 4 p.m. Dec. 5, 2016, Cox was headed west on Colorado Avenue in Sheffield about when her Chevrolet HHR crossed over the center line and hit an eastbound Ford Fusion driven by Dawon Seymour, seriously injuring him, Sheffield police have said. In an affidavit for a search warrant for the Fusion’s computer systems filed in December 2016, Sheffield police wrote about what they found on Cox’s Facebook page.
Police said Cox posted about “‘gas’ and ‘drink’” that they understood to be slang terms for marijuana and alcohol, which officers believe she was using just prior to the crash.
In exchange for her guilty plea in the case, prosecutors agreed to recommend she receive a two-year prison sentence. Cox’s attorney, Michael Wilson, asked Judge Chris Cook on Friday to follow the state’s recommendation and stick with the two-year recommendation.
“This court said it would be inclined to grant that two-year sentence as long as Ms. Cox did two things: did not pick up any new charges and showed up for sentencing,” Wilson said. “She did not violate any of the terms of those two conditions. Knowing that she is going to go serve a two-year prison sentence, she did show up today and is prepared to do that.”
And, when Cox was given the opportunity to speak prior to sentencing, she seemed to say all the right things.
“I’m deeply sorry for everything that’s gone on,” she said. “… I’m ready to go ahead and take responsibility for it and get this done with.”
But after that, the sentencing hearing took a turn Cox likely didn’t see coming.
“I saw something in the (presentence investigation report) that concerns me,” Cook said. “You indicated to the Probation Department that you feel bitter about the whole situation. While you never intended to hurt anybody, you have been made to look like a druggy. Doesn’t someone who smokes dope and drives a car, isn’t a druggy a good definition of that person?”
Cox tried to explain by blaming the media coverage of her case.
“I wasn’t talking about the drugs at the time,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was put in the paper as a suspected drunk driver and that’s what I was referencing. I was bitter about being in the paper like that, since I wasn’t drunk. The drugs, obviously, I take full responsibility for smoking weed and getting in the car accident.”
Cox also said she felt she had been “smeared” by the coverage of the crash.
Cook wasn’t done, though.
“The other thing is, I may be an older guy, but we do know something about technology, Facebook, Snap Twitter, Chat Tweet and all that kind of stuff,” Cook said. “Well, actually I don’t, but my staff does. … They thought it might be interesting given some of the statements you made in the report to look at some of the things you’ve been posting to see how you view things.”
The judge then pulled out a stack of printouts of various posts Cox had made to her Facebook page, which was set to public — meaning anyone on Facebook could see the posts.
“A couple days ago, you were talking about getting ready to go for the weekend … and you’re going to do ‘shotty shot shots’ and you have two bottles of alcohol as part of that,” Cook said. “‘Time to smokey smokey drinking drink.’ That was on April 18. I assume people don’t put ‘smokey smokey’ when you’re going to have a cigarette, so apparently you’re still smoking dope and getting ready to drink again.”
Cook also referenced a post on Cox’s Facebook page that showed Homer Simpson stuffing french fries in his mouth that said “No appetite all day. Me: seven minutes after smoking weed” that was apparently posted last Friday.
“Don’t you think that somebody who injured somebody — who injured somebody seriously in an accident after using marijuana — would have a little sense of remorse, a little sense of ‘Maybe I should change my life? Maybe what I’m doing isn’t the right thing?’” Cook said. “You post a picture of a cartoon stuffing his mouth with fries after getting high.
“You think I’m going to go along with two years after this? No, I’m not. It shows you don’t get it. You hurt somebody, seriously. It doesn’t seem to have affected you. You say the right things, but your conduct and activities outside this courtroom — continuing to drive, continuing to get high, continuing to drink and posting this nonsense — shows me you don’t get it. It shows me you’re still a threat to our community.”
Cook also referenced statements Cox made to probation officers in which she had suffered major injuries while the victim had been made whole. Cook asked Cox if she felt she was the victim in the case.
“No. I just felt like sometimes people were just looking at me and not really considering,” she said. “I know I have a victim, and he is the important one and that I understand that he’s the major concern. I did take a lot of injuries and whatever.”
Cook then sentenced to Cox to five years in prison. He also told her that if she makes changes while she’s in prison, he would consider granting her judicial release after she serves four years.