Nerim's Sentencing: A Testimony to the Power of Forgiveness
Note: This post is written by Devan Mulvaney whose parents and sister were tragically killed in an accident on their way home from Silver Lake Conference Center in the summer of 2015. The driver of the car’s infant daughter was also killed. Devan has written these reflections about the gut wrenching task of reading an impact statement at the recent trial of the driver of the car. Devan has given us permission to share this with you, the CTUCC community. It is a powerful testimony to the power of forgiveness. We are grateful that Devan has allowed us to share it here. ~ Kent Siladi
Last Wednesday in New York the sentencing happened for Nerim Sinanovic (the driver that caused the crash that killed my family in 2015). I was asked by the District Attorney to read a victim impact statement. For the whole month of December and January I was dreading this sentencing, fearing the worst, not knowing what to expect. My extended family came out and a few close friends. I spoke first, and Lucy stood with me at the podium. My statement began with offering my condolences to Nerim’s family over the loss of his 2 year old daughter Leona, who also died in the crash. I told him that when I heard about Leona it broke my heart. It was highly emotional. Nerim’s side of the courtroom was overcome. Nerim looked at me with deep sadness. I told him about seeing my father in the hospital broken, the memorial services, moving 3 times without saying goodbye to my home, purging possessions I inherited, endless legal paperwork, taking care of 3 estates, my heavy grief and loss of everything I’ve known in New York. It was hard to get through. I voiced my frustrations at Nerim. Him driving under the heavy amount of Xanax he took was selfish, careless, and foolish. He nodded, red in the face. I told him I wanted him to do the right thing, to be a good husband and father to his children, to not dishonor the dead. I also pointed out that though he was the catalyst in this crash I don’t feel he alone should bear the only responsibility for it. A lot went wrong that day. The Taconic State Parkway is a deathtrap. At the end of my speech I told him that I felt an indescribable bond to him. That we are two people caught in a storm that neither of us asked for, and neither of us could step away from. I’ve often felt very alone and misunderstood these past couple years. When I’ve thought of anyone who could possibly understand what it’s like to be at the center of such a tragedy I’ve thought of Nerim. We made eye contact, his face said me too, and I understand. At the end of my speech I wished him well on his journey of healing and I forgave him.
Next my aunts Kelly and Sarah spoke. They were both so courageous. All our speeches highlighted different aspects of the same thing. Kelly pointed out that healing and change is a choice made every single day. It’s not something the criminal justice system can fix. It’s a choice that Nerim needs to make for the rest of his life. Sarah pointed out that justice for her was him getting the help he needs with his addiction, and to become a better man. Nerim nodded and his expression said he agreed with all that was said, even the blame we had for him.
Finally Nerim got to speak. He said that he had deep regret for what happened on August 15th, 2015. When he woke up in the hospital he knew he had made a terrible mistake. For months afterwards he didn’t think he deserved to live. He prayed for our family every day since the accident. After a couple months he visited the site of the crash and found that my uncle Scott had made a cross for his daughter Leona along with crosses for my parents and Katherine. That opened his heart for the first time. Nerim said he knew the cross had to have been placed there by our family, and that changed his life. He became a part of his community, went to church and found God. He’s been clean and has tried to become the father he wished he was to Leona. He called Ledell, Don and Katherine beautiful angels and was thankful my sister and mother were with Leona when she passed to the other side. He assured us that he wanted to get better and do the most he could to make things right. All of this brought tears to everyone’s eyes. To hear of Nerim’s remorse was something I and my family have been waiting to hear for over 2 years now. The Judge and DA said that in over the 20 plus years that they’ve been doing this they’ve never seen such forgiveness and compassion. Nerim was sentenced to 4 months of jail time and 5 years of probation. It requires weekly drug tests and counseling. He will always have 4 counts of criminally negligent homicide on his record. My family and I are comfortable with this sentence. I truly believe Nerim never wanted to kill 4 people. I believe that sending him off to jail for a longer sentence wouldn’t help him in the long run. It’s a better test of a man to be in the real world and fend off addiction then in prison. I believe he needs to be with his family now more then ever.
I believe in forgiveness. Anger and hate are an affliction that will eat you up and keep you from moving forward with your life. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Remember we are all human beings in this crazy crazy life, who make mistakes, even ones that cause lives to be lost. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel people should take responsibility for their mistakes. It’s just difficult to believe they should pay with the hatred and dehumanizing our society often subjects one another to. The one who has not sinned cast the first stone, right? The feeling I and my family have after this experience is profoundly healing. It was incredible to behold. Lucy and I feel more like ourselves for the first time since the crash. I feel like I can grieve my family now without focusing on the horror of the crash. I can focus more on who they were as people. I feel a renewal and rebirth like never before. For the first time I feel like a positive came from this whole awful thing. That I and my family helped save Nerim’s life, his wife’s life, his remaining children’s life and Nerim’s extended families lives. I feel like Nerim’s words helped save my and my families lives. It’s kinda a catch 22 but it makes sense to me. I hope this post will help all of my parent’s and my sister’s friends. There is so much we don’t understand about this world. I believe in humanity. We are in this crazy thing together. Be at peace. Glory, Glory Hallelujah.