02/02/12 — Driver gets six years for three crash deaths

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Driver gets six years for three crash deaths

By Gary Popp
Published in News on February 2, 2012 1:46 PM

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Mark Aaron Pope, right, listens along with his defense lawyer, Claud Ferguson, as Judge Arnold Jones reads Pope's sentence for death by motor vehicle in Wayne County Superior Court on Wednesday. Pope was behind the wheel when an accident killed three teenage passengers in October 2010.

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Allen Floars comforts his wife, Catherine, during the sentencing of Mark Aaron Pope in Wayne County Superior Court on Wednesday. The Floarses lost their son, Jacob, in the accident. Floars asked the court to impose the maximum sentence on Pope.

Mark Aaron Pope, 18, will spend 6 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to three counts of death by motor vehicle in Wayne County Superior Court.

Pope, of Fremont, lost control of the car he was driving Oct. 10, 2010, before it left the roadway near N.C. 222 and Airport Road, killing all three passengers who were riding with him -- Jacob Floars, 17; Ashley Haskins, 18; and Joshua Brantley, 25, all of Fremont.

Authorities said the speed at impact was about 80 mph, and that Pope was highly intoxicated at the time.

Judge Arnold Jones II sentenced Pope to the maximum sentence of 75 to 117 months in the state Department of Correction. Pope had no prior convictions.

Sitting next to his attorney, Claud S. Ferguson Jr., Pope listened as Jones asked if he understood the plea deal he was accepting and if he was guilty of the three charges.

During the nearly hour-long hearing, the courtroom was often overcome with emotion as family and friends of all four young people involved were present.

Jones gave the parents, siblings and friends an opportunity to address the court.

The parents of Floars, who was a Charles B. Aycock High School student at the time of his death, were the first to speak.

Allen Floars stood at the front of the courtroom with a large framed photo collage of his son as he pleaded for Jones to administer justice.

"(Jacob) was my only son, and he was a good son," Floars said between sobs. "My job of raising my son has been taken from me. You see, he was my son, and I loved him with all my heart. Aaron Pope didn't care. He thought only of himself. I hope you will give him the maximum sentence allowed by the law."

Pope's parents also spoke during the hearing. They told the victims' families that they were sorry for their losses and apologized for their son's actions.

As part of the plea deal, Assistant District Attorney Curtis Stackhouse dismissed several other charges, including driving while impaired and possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 19.

Stackhouse presented 11 color photos and one video as evidence of the crimes committed. He said that although it was a plea hearing and not a trial per se, he believed the judge should see the evidence before deciding on a sentence.

"It was a hard decision to make, but I think Judge Jones made a decision that he thought was right," Stackhouse said. "It is a tough situation, obviously, for everyone involved. Three people lost their lives, so there must be some sort of consequence for the role played by Mark Pope."

Stackhouse praised the investigation by the state Highway Patrol, saying it made his job easier.

Toxicology reports processed by the SBI showed Pope's blood alcohol level was 0.16 at the time of the accident, twice the legal limit.