Former NBA player sentenced in September 2012 crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Washington was advised by his attorney not to talk at his sentencing this morning in front of Judge Jon Hulsing in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

Defense attorney Dan Bylenga said that was because of possible pending civil litigation.

But Estella Vitins’ family members had no trouble expressing their outrage that Washington did not stop and help at the scene.

Rolled up to the podium in a wheelchair, Janis Vitins questioned the character, honesty and integrity of a man who would leave a horribly injured person on the side of the road.

“If no one stopped, my wife would have been road kill,” 71-year-old Vitins said.

His wife’s long-term hospital care cost more than $50,000, he said.

“She was my caregiver,” Vitins said. “Since then she has had 24-hour care. She seems to have lost the will to live.”

Estella Vitins, now 71, had gone to get some ice cream the evening of Sept. 18, 2012, but never made it home, according to her daughter, Amy Cooper.

Cooper speculated the sun was in her eyes and she missed the exit to get off Interstate 96.

At some point Estella Vitins stopped to get some gas, but she still ran out of gas on I-96 between Nunica and Fruitport.

The family attorney, Mark Goudy, said Estella was walking west down eastbound I-96, possibly believing she was on the shoulder of the road, when she was struck by a Jaguar driven by Washington, 48.

Although Washington initially stopped and checked his car, he did leave the scene and returned home.

His attorney talked about numerous letters of support from upstanding members of the community that he has received on Washington’s behalf.

He asked the judge to cut the recommended sentence in half, or to just order community service.

Judge Hulsing said he ordered 60 days in jail because Washington had no insurance on the car.

Washington was given credit for two days served after the crash.

He was put on probation for 18 months, ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and pay $1,200 in fines and costs.

See the print and electronic editions of the Grand Haven Tribune for more of this story.

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