Hit-and-run driver to serve 1 to 2 years in Durham cyclist’s death

jalexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2014 

— A judge sentenced Maceo Christopher Kemp Jr. to one to two years in prison Wednesday after Kemp pleaded guilty to the 2013 hit-and-run death of Durham cyclist Seth Vidal and to driving with a revoked license related to a DWI charge.

Kemp, of Manson, will get credit for 123 days already served, and will serve nine months’ probation after he completes his prison term.

Alicia Vidal, mother of Seth Vidal, cried throughout the hearing and after the sentence was given. She and family members all pleaded with the judge to give Kemp the maximum sentence of nearly five years.

“The loss of a life and the resulting damage is not something this court can easily remedy,” Eunice Chang, Seth Vidal’s domestic partner of 11 years, told the judge. “What the court can do, though, is make a decision that prevents this individual from causing another such tragedy.”

Wake County Judge Howard Manning, who was filling in for a Durham County judge, gave Kemp the lesser sentence based on three mitigating factors:

• He accepted responsibility.

• He was a person of good character in the community.

• At early stages, he acknowledged involvement to the officer.

Kemp asked the family if could he provide an apology to them. Vidal’s mother said her brain was telling her no, but her heart was telling her yes.

“I want to say sorry to Seth’s friends and family, and I pray that one day you will forgive me,” Kemp said.

“I really don’t have comment,” Vidal said afterward. “I really just need to absorb this.”

‘Wrong was done’

The ruling upset members of the bicyclist community, several of whom wanted a longer sentence.

“I feel like the court is restricted to a set of laws, and the judge could have gone further,” said Meredith Emmett, a former neighbor and friend of Vidal’s. “Wrong was done, and Maceo was already violating the law by driving with a license revoked.”

According to testimony, Kemp was driving home from work at Merchant Tire at 9 p.m. July 8 in the 1700 block of Hillandale Road when he struck Vidal. The prosecutor said witnesses say a dark sedan slowed down, swerved and stopped. A few seconds later the car left. Witnesses saw a mangled bike lying in the street.

Vidal was found in a ditch and was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Kemp turned himself in to police the next day.

“I know for most of us, it’s hard to understand why someone who is doing nothing wrong but driving while a license revoked would not stop,” Shannon Tucker, Kemp’s attorney, told the court.

“But in his mind that night, he was scared, so unfortunately he left,” Tucker continued. “Maceo turned himself in to police the next day because he knew what he had done was wrong, and it was eating away at him, and he wanted to do the right thing.”

Tucker declined to comment afterward.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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