Relatives Of Erika Hughes Demand Laws Be Changed; Suffolk DA Spota Agrees

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Mastic man has been sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison for a hit-and-run accident that left a young mother dead.

Preston Mimms, 48, pleaded guilty last month to charges in connection with the accident that killed 24-year-old Erika Hughes on July 29, 2011.

Hughes was walking on Mastic Road in Mastic Beach when she was struck; the impact threw her body against a curb.

It took police nine months to find the evidence to get Mimms, who was driving with a suspended license, indicted.

Since there was no way to prove a cover-up, nor that Mimms was drunk, on drugs or speeding at the time of the hit-and-run, he was charged with a non-violent felony – leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it. Instead of two and a third to seven years in prison, the judge gave Mimms one to four.

Hughes’ family is outraged by the lenient sentence.

“It’s very unfair. A year and a quarter? Traffic violations get more than that. It’s not right,” Tina Hughes, the victim’s aunt, told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

“I cant begin to describe, first the pain of the loss, and then the anger I feel right now,” added Kevin Hughes, Erika’s uncle.

The victim’s father, Dennis Hughes, said he believes Mimms should not have been allowed to plead guilty.

“This was the case that they could’ve nailed this guy and made him pay and then sent a message to everybody out there, ‘If you hit somebody, and you kill somebody you better stay there, do not flee,’” Dennis Hughes said. “Unless we change those laws, people will continue to flee. In a case like today, we’ll never know the truth.”

He believes if Mimms was prosecuted at a trial he would’ve been convicted and sentenced to the maximum of seven years behind bars.

“It’s more than just my daughter, it’s for everybody out there that has suffered what we had suffered and people that will suffer in the future because of people running from these crimes; they deserve the max,” Dennis Hughes said.

The judge said with Mimms pleading guilty, the Hughes family avoided the risk of an acquittal at a trial.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said he also disagrees with what he called a light sentence.

“This defendant, more than any other, deserves the maximum,” Spota said. “He has been convicted of three prior crimes, two of them violent crimes — assault, a robbery, a grand larceny — a now he leaves a young woman dead on the street.”

Spota told CBS 2’s McLogan he’d like to see the law changed.

“There should be a harsher sentence. We have to have something to discourage people from killing people and then leaving and getting the benefit of it,” Spota said.

Erika Hughes left behind a barely 15-month-old daughter, Gabriella, who was too young to understand that her mother had been killed.

Share your thoughts below…

Watch & Listen LIVE