January 25, 2008 -- An Arizona judge threw the book at a two-time convicted drunk driver who killed a bicyclist and then laughed about it in a jailhouse phone call with a friend.
In the phone call, played during the sentencing hearing, Melissa Arrington, 27, listened, as a friend known only as "Little Joe" makes a tasteless attempt to cheer her up. He tells her that a neighbor said she should get a medal and a parade because she had "taken out'' a "tree hugger, a bicyclist, a Frenchman and a gay guy all in one shot."
Arrington can be heard laughing at the comment. After admitting that she is "not supposed to be laughing at stuff like that,'' she seems to reconsider and a minute or so later she says, with a giggle, "I would have to agree with that."
Pima County Superior Court Judge Michael R. Cruikshank told Arrington that the call was "breathtaking in it's inhumanity," and sentenced her to the near maximum: 10-and-a-half years in jail.
When Little Joe told Arrington he knew it was a terrible thing to say, she responded, "No, it's not,'' according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News Law & Justice Unit.
The family of her victim, Paul L'Ecuyer, a caregiver at a local group home in Arizona, were in court and heard the tape for the first time at Arrington's sentencing.
"It was fairly stunning," Cruikshank said in a telephone interview with ABC News on Thursday. "It's got to have been a very difficult thing [for the victim's family] to hear."
Deputy Pima County Attorney Jonathan Mosher said he came across the call as part of a routine review of jailhouse communications. He sought to introduce the audiotape at trial for the jury, but Judge Cruikshank ruled against the motion,saying that the proper venue for the airing of the audio was at sentencing.
The jury acquitted Arrington of manslaughter, the most serious charge against her, and convicted her of negligent homicide.
"For whatever warped reason, he was trying to cheer her up,'' Arrington's attorney, Assistant Pima County Public Defender Michael Rosenbluth said. "That's not to say that it excuses her and not saying it's not outrageous, but it's not that easy when you're in custody. You'll sometimes talk to anybody."
Rosenbluth said his client had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in the year prior to the fatal accident that killed L'Ecuyer. He said she had been driving with a suspended license when she killed the bicyclist.
"I know the type of person Missy is,'' he said, referring to Arrington by her nickname. "That's not her true feelings."
At sentencing, Arrington told Judge Cruikshank that words couldn't express her remorse and that she wants to work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving when she gets out of prison, according to The Associated Press. Her attorney said Thursday that she had entered an alcohol treatment program immediately after making bail.
Arrington was a local bartender and Little Joe was a regular patron of hers, Rosenbluth said.
L'Ecuyer, 45, was hit and killed while riding his bicycle the night of December 1, 2006. Arrington swerved and hit him, then continued for another 800 feet before stopping, Mosher said. Her blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit.
"Obviously his name sounds French, but I have no idea where they would have possibly gotten any idea about his environmental views or sexual orientation,'' Mosher said. "I don't know why they would have thought he was a homosexual.
"My understanding is that he was not."