Jack Young, the man convicted in a crash that claimed the lives of 13 people last spring, has been sentenced to 55 years in prison.
The sentence came down around 2:15 p.m. Friday following closing arguments from both sides.
Prior to the sentencing, Young took the stand on Friday to explain to a judge what led him to drive in an intoxicated state and kill 13 New Braunfels church members in an explosive head-on collision last spring.
In a deal with prosecutors, Young agreed to a no contest plea to 13 counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault.
For about an hour, Young spoke to the judge and to a packed courtroom of survivors of the dead and injured.
Taking the stand, Young was visibly breathing rapidly as he told his attorney that he knew he was facing the possibility of 270 years in prison.
In a rapid exchange, Young answered ‘Yes sir,’ to every initial question posed by attorney Rogelio Munoz.
Munoz asked Young “Do you know you are going to the pen? Are you here to tell your story? Are you not here to make excuses but to tell the truth?”
Munoz began his interrogation by asking Young to detail an assault case in which he was a victim as a youngster.
Young testified that a man went to prison for a lengthy term after a sex conviction involving him and numerous other boys.
Young told Judge Camile DuBose that dealing with the consequences of that assault has led to a lifetime of trying to find relief from the trauma.
Young said he sought mental health help after considering suicide, saying the assault left him feeling ‘utterly disgusted.’
“You can never get the feeling of dirtiness off of you,” Young said.
Young detailed his stay in a mental hospital where he spent days crying uncontrollably while contemplating suicide.
Young says after a short stay in the hospital, he was discharged with a diagnosis of PTSD, chronic depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Young said he left the hospital with a prescription for a powerful drug that would allow him to take the medication for six months, with the understanding that he would seek additional psychiatric help.
Describing the details on what happened March 29, 2017, Young said he smoked marijuana at 3 a.m. and then later woke up and went to work.
Young said when he arrived at his job site, he learned it was too wet to work so he sought out a friend to drive with him to Uvalde to pick up a refill of his prescription medication. Young said his friend was unavailable so he drove to Uvalde alone, never dreaming that taking prescribed medication would lead to a state of intoxication that would lead to the deaths of 13 innocent victims.
Young said “When I look at the video, I don’t know how (I was that impaired). I wish to God something in my brain would have told me. I didn’t realize how I was driving.”
Speaking to families of the deceased, Young said “I can’t put into words how sorry I am. I wish something I could say could make it less painful. I pray to God I wish it could have been me.”
Crying at times, Young said “They didn’t deserve it. It should have been me. They were beautiful people, beautiful families and I wish every day it was me (who died.)”
Speaking with conviction in a clear voice, Young said “I wish every day I hadn’t been born and none of this had ever happened. I never wanted to hurt anyone in a million years and it’s inconceivable. I can’t say sorry enough.”
Young agreed that he needs to be punished for his actions.
“I could live a thousand years and do a million things and it would still never be enough to make up for this,” Young told the spectators, many of whom could be heard quietly sobbing as he spoke.
Speaking about the lone survivor on the First Baptist Church bus, Rose Mary Harris, Young said “Ms. Rose Harris is the most beautiful and amazing lady I have ever seen in my life and all those people were alike. I wish I had known them.”
Young said, “To see Ms. Harris smile and laugh after what she went through, she is truly the most Christian woman I have ever seen in my life.”
When prosecutor took over the questioning, the exchange became more intense, with Daniel Kindred asking Young about text messages retrieved from his cell phone in the month leading up to the crash.
Kindred asked Young why the text messages indicated Young was making drug deals to sell his prescribed medications. Young denied selling prescribed drugs, but he did admit that his friends did suggest trades and deals with other drugs numerous times.
“I know for a fact I never sold them,” Young said.
When asked to explain why he failed drug screens that were part of his pre-trial release deal, Young said he had a girlfriend who smoked marijuana and he believed one positive test may have been caused by being exposed to smoke. Another incident, Young said, was caused by using a CBD product that he wrongly believed was legal.
Young told the judge he grew up in a household where marijuana use was a common occurrence and he was never told it was wrong.
“When everybody smokes marijuana, it’s just something you do,” Young said, adding “It’s not like I was a drug dealer.”
Young said marijuana was a part of his culture and he believed it was not a bad drug, in fact, he said marijuana wasn't really considered a drug and it was socially acceptable.
“Honest to God if I had known I would have never touched it,” Young told the judge.
When prosecutor Kindred approached the witness stand with graphic pictures of the accident scene, Young visibly cringed when asked to identify the images.
Against a backdrop of quiet sobs in the courtroom gallery, Young spoke softly and closed his eyes when he identified bodies in bags at the crash site.
When asked about his intentions, and about being intoxicated, Young said he believed several factors led to the crash.
Young said there was a large unrestrained dog in the vehicle and that the truck was old and unreliable.
“The truck was jacked up and it did walk the road some,” Young said, adding that the use of prescription medication was not the only factor at work.
When asked why he used marijuana with prescribed medication, Young replied: “it was a great alternative to waking up every day trying to find a reason not to put a bullet in your head.”
Young said during his darkest days, he repeatedly asked his father to kill him. “I tried to change and I was still working every single day and I will try until the day I die,” Young said.
“All I can do is try to be a better person. I made a mistake but I don’t want people to think I was partying. It wasn’t like I was sitting in a bar drinking and driving,” Young said.
When the prosecutor pointed out that Young had a chance to change when he was released on bond, and failed, Young repeated his assertion “All I want to do is change, but I believe I should go to prison.”