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Driver in 2019 Acadia crash that killed 3 sentenced to 41 months in prison

A judge ordered Praneeth Manubolu to serve 41 months in federal prison for three counts of manslaughter in connection with the fatal 2019 crash on Park Loop Road.

BANGOR, Maine — Nearly three years after a car crash in Acadia National Park that killed three people from New York City, the driver in that crash was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.

Praneeth Manubolu, 31, pleaded guilty in connection to the crash that killed all three passengers: 36-year-old Lenny Fuchs, 30-year-old Laura Leong, 27-year-old and Zeeshan Mohammed.

Manubolu is a foreign national from India who was living in Edgewater, New Jersey at the time. He pleaded guilty to three charges of manslaughter, two counts of operating under the influence, and one count of unsafe operation. 

Manubolu, who was in the United States on a student visa, was driving with the three passengers on Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on the early morning of Aug. 31, 2019, according to court records. An investigation of the crash determined Manubolu had a blood alcohol content of .095 percent roughly 90 minutes after the crash, which was over Maine's legal limit of .08 percent. The investigation also revealed Manubolu's car was traveling 76 mph in a 25 mph zone approximately three seconds before the crash.

Walter McKee is the defense attorney who represented Manubolu.

"Very significant sentence," McKee said. "Obviously 41 months is a long time, but then again, this was a case where it was an accident and three people were killed, so it probably called for a more significant sentence. More than what we had hoped for, but I understand the judge's decision."

Among those in the federal courtroom in Bangor for the sentencing Friday was the family of Laura Leong. Leong's mother, father, and brother testified before Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. 

The Leong family gave an emotional testimony to the courtroom. They each said Laura was their "sunshine," an exuberant, loving, outgoing woman who filled their lives with so much joy when she was alive. They said though she moved away from her family on the west coast to pursue her dreams in New York City, she never missed a Christmas with them and would call home at least once a week. Mrs. Leong told Manubolu that she doesn't hate him, she just hates what happened. 

Leong's brother said, "At the end of the day, all we want is peace."

Manubolu's uncle also gave an emotional testimony to the courtroom. He described Manubolu as a shy, humble, educated man who always knew the right thing to do and the right thing to say. He said he hasn't seen him smile once since the incident, and he's become "a shell of a person."

"This was one of the most emotional and powerful sentencings I've ever been a part of," McKee said.

McKee asked the judge for a sentence of 18 months, but prosecutors said such a sentence wouldn't be long enough considering the seriousness of the offenses. They asked for a sentence of 48 months. 

Before the judge issued the sentence, Manubolu spoke to the court.

"It's unfair to know everyday people are suffering because of me," he said.

Manubolu went on to say he doesn't think he deserves to be receiving as much kindness from everyone as he is. He said he is not supposed to be alive, this world would be much better without him, and no amount of punishment would ever make what he did right. 

"He wishes he was the one who died and he's been very specific about that from the day this accident happened," McKee said.

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