Although she doesn’t remember Sept. 10, 2016, Thyanna Faith Littlesun of Lame Deer apologized on Thursday for driving drunk that day and causing a crash that killed two teenage boys and seriously injured a third boy in Busby.
“I made a huge mistake. I sincerely apologize,” said Littlesun, during a federal court hearing in Billings.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced Littlesun, 24, to six years in prison, a term significantly longer than the guideline range of about three to four years.
The guidelines, Watters said, didn’t represent the “level of harm” Littlesun had caused when she drove drunk.
“It’s a horrible tragedy because it’s senseless,” the judge told Littlesun.
Such tragedies, Watters continued, happen “so often on your reservation” and other reservations. A sentence longer than the guidelines may deter Littlesun in the future as well as deter others who may drink and drive, she added.
While calling Littlesun’s apology sincere, “you must be punished,” Watters said.
The judge noted Littlesun’s history involved drug and alcohol abuse, including drinking at age 12, using marijuana as a sixth-grader and using meth for the past four to five years.
In addition to prison, Watters imposed $16,450 restitution to the victims and to the funeral home, ordered Littlesun to have no contact with the victims and not to enter bars or businesses where alcohol is served or to be in dwellings, residences or vehicles where there is alcohol or where people are drinking alcohol.
Littlesun pleaded guilty in July to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and to one count of assault resulting in serious injury. There was no plea agreement.
The crash happened at about 1:10 p.m. in a 25 mph speed zone on U.S. Highway 212 in Busby on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
Montana Highway Patrol crash investigators estimated that Littlesun was driving about 84 mph when her car crossed into the oncoming lane and slammed into a nearly stationary Pontiac that was occupied by four minors.
Killed instantly were two 14-year-old boys, identified in obituaries as James Walker Lamewoman and Stephan Jaden Killsnight.
A third boy suffered extensive injuries, including brain injuries, skull fractures and internal injuries. The boy spent 19 days in a Billings hospital before being transported to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for months of inpatient rehabilitation.
The driver of the Pontiac, a 12-year old girl, suffered minor injuries. The girl tested negative for alcohol and drugs.
An investigation found that Littlesun had a blood-alcohol concentration of .343 percent, or more than four times the legal limit of .08 percent, shortly after the crash.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sullivan sought the six-year sentencing saying in a sentencing memo that the guideline range did not “adequately capture the horrific consequences of Littlesun’s actions.”
Littlesun’s “extraordinary recklessness” resulted in “devastating consequences” that warranted a longer sentence, Sullivan said.
Earlier that the morning, Sullivan said, Littlesun was drinking with three others and became highly intoxicated at a Busby residence, Sullivan said. Littlesun then stole a Buick belonging to a friend and drove off, running over a neighbor’s fence as she went. Littlesun was “only on the road a short time” before the crash occurred, he said.
In addition to the Busby crash, Littlesun has a pending drunken driving charge in Billings Municipal Court. That alleged offense happened on Dec. 25, 2015. Littlesun was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by law enforcement and after the driver was removed from the vehicle, Littlesun got behind the wheel and drove away, Sullivan said. As officers tried to arrest her, Littlesun allegedly struggled and kicked an officer in the leg, he said.
Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock recommended a guideline range term saying Littlesun is a reserved and shy young woman who had accepted responsibility.
Littlesun had “no recollection” of the day of the crash but acknowledged her actions, Babcock said a sentencing memo.
Babcock said Littlesun’s life took a turn after her significant other and the father of her two sons died in 2014 in a drunken driving crash. Littlesun dealt with the death by abusing alcohol on a daily basis, he said.
Littlesun’s goal is to remain sober, to become a certified nurse practitioner and to be a mother for her children, Babcock said.