The woman charged with traffic violations in October after hitting two people trying to save a dog on Liberty Street was fined $25 and court costs, under a plea deal this week.
Under the deal, charges of driving with a revoked license and operating a vehicle without insurance were dismissed, according to court documents. The driver, Margarita Hernandez De La Cruz, 54, took responsibility for the traffic infraction of failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. She was ordered to pay a $25 fine and $188 in court costs.
In North Carolina, driving with a revoked license and operating a vehicle without insurance are Class 3 misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of a $200 fine and court costs. However, if someone has four prior misdemeanors or felony convictions, he or she can receive up to 15 days in jail. With five prior convictions, he or she can receive up to 20 days in jail.
Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident has a maximum penalty of a $100 fine and court costs.
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On Oct. 19, De La Cruz was driving on Liberty Street just after 8 p.m. when she struck two pedestrians who were in the road trying to save a dog who had been hit about an hour before, police said. The dog died. Both of the pedestrians were taken to the hospital.
Jonathan Parker, who owned the dog and was standing in the street trying to divert traffic, was released the next day.
Stephanie Wilson, who pulled over to help and was leaning over the dog trying to listen for a heart beat, suffered a traumatic brain injury and skull fracture and remained in the hospital for two months.
Efforts to reach De La Cruz for comment for this and previous stories have been unsuccessful. She no longer lives at the address on her most recent citations.
Wilson, 29, said the plea deal was “disappointing but not super surprising.”
Neither Wilson or Parker had medical insurance.
Wilson is “going to pay several thousands of dollars in medical fees alone,” she said, “and I hope that woman gets the help that she needs as well.”
The Oct. 19 revoked license charge was the fourth that De La Cruz had received since 2013, according to court records.
In one of the license revoked charges she was granted a prayer for judgment, in which the person accepts guilt but isn’t subject to a penalty.
On July 21, De La Cruz pleaded guilty to failure to secure a passenger, an infraction, and her second driving with a license revoked was dismissed under a plea deal, according to Durham County Assistant District Attorney Dale Morrill. She paid a fine and court costs that totaled $288. Her license was also revoked for a year, which is automatic when someone pleads guilty to a moving offense while he or she has a suspended license, Morrill said.
The day after appearing in Durham County court on that charge, De La Cruz appeared in Orange County court for an April 2014 charge of driving with a revoked license and having an expired registration in Orange County.
Both of the charges were dismissed. She had an updated registration, and the prosecutor would have seen that the Durham County case was resolved, Jeff Nieman, an Orange County assistant district attorney has said.
Morrill said De La Cruz accepted responsibility for the moving offense in District Court on Tuesday, which will help the victims if they sue her. Her license revoked status related to her pleading to not having a child secured.
“Am I as an assistant district attorney going to send somebody to jail because they plead to a child seat that revoked them for a year? Am I going to send them to jail for that particular scenario? Not likely,” he said.
Both Wilson and Parker said friends and associates have held crowdfunding campaigns to help pay their medical bills.
Doctors thought that Wilson initially had a 50 percent of surviving, and then they said she would likely be paralyzed.
“Every day I am thankful that as much as they are usually right on that spectrum, they were wrong,” Wilson said in a telephone interview.
Wilson left the hospital Dec. 16, and rode home with her mother to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is undergoing out-patient rehabilitation for a mild to moderate brain injury.
Overall, she is “pretty OK,” she said, but some days are better than others as she struggles with memory and other issues.
Wilson, a certified dog trainer who also worked at a catering company, has been an animal rescuer her entire life, saving dogs and cats in various efforts that have included going down to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to help animals left behind to founding Adoption Option, a rescue organization that seeks to save pit bulls, along with senior and special-needs animals, by placing them in foster homes across the Carolinas.
She hopes to return to Durham after she finishes her rehabilitation program, she said.
Wilson said she heard Parker was trying to get in touch with her to thank her for attempting to help his dog.
While she appreciates it, she said, it isn’t necessary.
“If there is an animal in need,” she said. “I am always going to try to help.”
A fundraiser for Stephanie Wilson’s recovery costs will be held at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. For more information go to, http://bit.ly/1OsUUmt.