A Wilmette teen who injured a classmate in a May hit-and-run said she is profoundly sorry but grateful that she was able to avoid jail.
"What I did was really stupid. I panicked, and should have stopped," Erin Hughes said Thursday. "I'm happy to have my life back and to continue my education."
Hughes avoided jail time Thursday by accepting a plea deal: two years of probation and 120 hours of community service in lieu of jail time for driving away after striking 16-year-old Sarah Goone.
"I just want the Goone family to know how sincere and how sorry I am," Hughes said outside her North Shore home Thursday afternoon. She said she's cut more than eight inches of her hair as a way to demonstrate her grief the last few weeks.
Cook County Judge Larry Axelrood sentenced the teary Hughes earlier in the day in a Skokie courtroom. Her two years of probation and community service also includes the stipulations that she remain in Illinois for the duration of her sentence and submit to random drug testing. She must aslo join a victim-impact panel, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The mandate that she not leave Illinois impacts her plans to attend the University of Missouri this fall, but her mother, Grace Ruopp, said she's excited that daughter will one day get to be the teacher she always wanted to be.
If Hughes successfully completes the probation, she would be allowed to get her criminal record expunged.
Though Goone was not in the courtroom, Hughes read aloud a letter she had written to her former schoolmate. In it, Hughes said she reads Goone’s website every day and was happy to read that she was "swiftly" improving.
The Goone family declined to comment Thursday but did submit a letter to the judge.
"Sarah is alive today not because of anything Erin Hughes did," it reads, in part. "Were it not for the very quick response of others Sarah could have died. We understand this was an accident and could have happened to anyone, but what Erin did by leaving Sarah laying in the middle of the street was selfish and irresponsible."
Goone's family has said the teen should be well enough to return to school in the fall.
Hughes, 18, was indicted on two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence following the May 14 accident that put Goone in the hospital. Hughes admitted to using marijuana before the accident.
Ruopp pleaded guilty last August to a delivery of marijuana charge, paid a fine and was sentenced to community service. When asked if she had in fact smoked pot with her daughter, Ruopp said Thursday, "No comment."
Had the case gone to trial, Hughes faced up to three years in jail.