ELYRIA — Adrianna Young was freed from prison after serving about eight months of her 4½-year sentence for crashing into an Amherst Township home and killing a mother and injuring a child in 2015.
Judge James Miraldi granted judicial release during a hearing Thursday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court. Miraldi said Young, 25, of Oberlin, is “indeed a broken woman at this point in her life, but she is capable of doing better.”
Young pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana in connection to the July 28, 2015, incident where she crashed her car into a family’s home while Debra Majkut was sitting on a living room couch with her infant son, Jaxon. Majkut was killed and Jaxon was trapped beneath Young’s vehicle, suffering burns on his face from the car’s exhaust.
Tensions ran high in the courtroom during the hearing as Majkut’s husband, James, and Assistant County Prosecutor Chris Pierre expressed their opposition to the request for Young’s judicial release.
“I beg for me, my children and everybody sitting over here that is, and has been, hurting,” James Majkut said, his voice cracking with emotion. “Please stick with the 4½-year sentence. It was lenient. All I’m asking for is justice.”
Watch a previous CT interview with James Majkut in which he discusses the possibility of Young’s early release.
Pierre said the state believes that eight months in prison hasn’t, and cannot, punish Young “in light of the wake of destruction she has left in her path.” He said eight months in prison in “comparison to recklessly putting a baby under a car, burning and scarring that baby’s face and taking away that baby’s mother demeans the loss of little Jaxon who is now, and forever, a motherless child.”
Defense attorney Jack Bradley said the court made an agreement with counsel when Young pleaded guilty that she would be sentenced to 4½ years in prison and would be granted judicial release if she received a favorable report from the warden while in prison.
Miraldi acknowledged that such an agreement was made.
Bradley also read from the transcript of the sentencing hearing in which Pierre recounted the details of the day Debra Majkut was killed. He spoke of the courtroom as a “special place” where “we have to be able to rely on what was said to our clients in a court of law.”
He also said Miraldi was “duty-bound” to honor the agreement since Young had “lived up to her end of the bargain.”
“Adrianna Young is never going to forget what happened and what she did,” Bradley said. “Whether she spends seven or eight months in prison, or if she spends 4½ years in prison, it’s not going to change what happened.”
Pierre poured out a box of more than 230 letters people had sent urging Miraldi to deny Young’s request for judicial release. He also held up a stack of 50 more letters he had been given by James Majkut prior to the hearing.
“Never in my career have I seen such a public outcry, displayed in hundreds of letters from across the country, from across the state and from across everywhere, urging this court to deny the defendant’s motion for release,” Pierre said.
“It took everything I had to lift and hold the back end of Miss Young’s vehicle, while poor Jacob (Majkut, Jaxon’s older brother,) and my wife, Ashley, climbed underneath to clear debris and free a helpless infant,” Koviak’s letter said. “Jaxon’s painful screams and cries were nonstop, yet Ms. Young never attempted to help. All she did was walk away.”
“I have to tell you I wish I were as far away from this courtroom as I could possibly be today,” he said. “I’ve never been so scared in my entire life in trying to fulfill my obligations and the oath that I took than I am right now. I’m trying not to shake, but I may not be able to stop it.”
He also acknowledged the letters from the public.
“The Majkut family, through the local newspaper, asked others to write to me asking me to deny the motion for judicial release,” Miraldi said. “As the prosecutor pointed out, stacks of letters have been received — heartfelt letters from good people.
“I have read every letter — every one.”
Miraldi said he understands that he probably will face public criticism for his decision but that he is not allowed to let himself be influenced by public pressure or fear that he’ll be criticized for making a decision when he believes it follows the law.
Watch the judge explain his decision.
By granting judicial release now and being able to hold four more years of prison over Young’s head if she fails to meet the requirements of her release, Miraldi said he believes he is giving her an opportunity to prove she can be rehabilitated before her life becomes worse.
“The longer a person remains in prison, the greater the risk that he or she will become exposed and influenced in a way that would encourage criminal behavior upon release,” he said. “If I ever had a chance to have Miss Young’s full attention to do what is necessary to change patterns of behavior, it is now after she has had a small taste of prison, but should have obtained a healthy fear of doing anything that would lead to her return to prison. That is the whole theory underlying shock probation, or judicial release.”
Miraldi said judicial release isn’t a free pass, and Young will have to undergo random drug and alcohol testing, community service and meet regularly with community control officers or risk going back to prison. He said her driver’s license remains suspended for life.
At one point while rendering his decision, Miraldi had to pause to collect himself as his voice quavered. He was also visibly shaking while taking a sip of water.
“This isn’t an easy decision to make, but I believe it to be the right decision,” he said. “I am confident that I have weighed the factors dispassionately in order to take the right — though extremely unpopular — course of action and time will tell. If I am wrong, then fortunately I still have the power of returning the defendant to prison for a long time. Justice must be tempered with mercy.”
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