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Teen sentenced to work release for deadly prom night DUI crash in northeast Boulder

The teen caused a head-on collision when she drove the wrong way on Foothills Parkway the night of Boulder High School’s prom
Gregoria “Gloria” Morales Ramirez and Ori Tsioni
Posted at 4:01 PM, Feb 03, 2023

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A teenager who was behind the wheel in a drunk driving crash that killed two people in northeast Boulder last year has been sentenced to nine months of jail, with a work release option, and three years of probation.

The girl, who is now 18, caused a head-on collision when she drove the wrong way on Foothills Parkway the night of Boulder High School’s prom. The crash killed the two occupants of another car, Gregoria “Gloria” Morales Ramirez and Ori Tsioni.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office said the girl had left a post-prom party to get more alcohol.

In December, the teenager plead guilty to all of the charges against her, including two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault.

She has not been named because she was a juvenile at the time of the April 2022 crash.

The DA's office had agreed to a sentence of at least six months in jail and a minimum of two years’ probation.

Work release is a form of alternative sentencing in Colorado that allows a person to work while serving time in jail. The district attorney's office told Denver7 it could take as long as two weeks for a work release bed to open up. When that happens, the teen will be able to leave jail during the day for approved work or school visits.

During the sentencing hearing Friday, Tsioni's mother, father and sister provided emotional impact statements.

Tsioni's sister described him as a loving older brother who was full of life and joy. His mother was too distraught to speak at the lectern and had to leave the courtroom. She provided her statement on a video teleconference from another room, describing her son as a selfless individual who would help anyone.

Tsioni's father described the torture of being on a five-hour flight and not being able to receive updates after learning his son was in critical condition at the hospital. When he arrived, Tsioni's mother informed him Tsioni had died.

In a statement provided to Denver7, the Tsioni family called for change.

"We are not happy with the sentencing. First, we disagree with sentencing [defendant] as a juvenile. When she committed this crime, she was just a few months shy of her 18th birthday. She had prior drinking offenses. She purchased alcohol with a fake ID to drink during her Prom evening. She made adult decisions of drinking adult beverages and then driving. She should have been tried as an adult and faced adult consequences. Second, the sentencing that was entered today was not nearly long enough or severe enough for such a crime. Colorado’s sentencing guidelines and laws are too short and soft when it comes to drinking and driving, particularly when it results in death ...

With this tragedy, comes the opportunity for change. The Boulder community, including its schools, students, and parents, should be that force for change, raising awareness, and having more education. The culture of providing alcohol to minors, allowing minors to drink alcohol without safeguards, or disregarding underage drinking needs to stop, and accountability needs to be at the forefront. With positive action, it is our goal and hope that no other family or person has to experience this senseless and preventable tragedy and does not have to feel the loss that we feel every day."

Morales-Ramirez's son, Luis Geraldo Sevilla-Morales, and his sister also provided impact statements. They described their mother as a hard working, devoted mother who wanted to provide everything she could for her family.

The siblings pinned a red rose on their outfits Friday in honor of their mother, who loved wearing red clothing and red lipstick.

Sevilla-Morales told Denver7 through a translator, "I think it's too little... How could you give nine months to a person that killed two people and still give her the opportunity to go to work?"

The defendant spoke during her sentencing hearing after crying through several hours of impact statements.

She told the victims' families that she hopes they can forgive her one day.

"No matter what sentence I get today, I will do anything. I just want the families to know how sorry I am. I'm ready to serve whatever sentence is given to me," she said.

When she learned the collision was fatal she said, "I couldn't breathe, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep."

The teen said she prays for the victims everyday.

"I wish I can change my decision that night. I'm sorry to the whole community for putting you at risk that night. It could have been anyone," she said.

According to the judge, the girl could have faced a maximum of 16 years in prison if she was tried and found guilty as an adult. The judge told the courtroom that in her 30 years of practicing, she's never seen a "more remorseful" defendant.

Throughout the judicial process, both families hoped the defendant would be tried as an adult. Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said this case did not meet such criteria.

"So under the law, and it was changed a few years ago, it's not simply the district attorney's decision. We have to apply to the court, and there's certain criteria laid out by statute that you have to be able to prove to the court in order to ask the judge to transfer a case to adult court. We looked really closely at those things. They include some things that we have in this case — the immeasurable loss that this young woman caused. Obviously, that was a factor that we can meet in the hearing. But we also have to prove that the person has a prior criminal history — she does not — that it was premeditated, in other words, it was intentional and acted out intentionally — it was not — that it involved what's legally defined as a deadly weapon. In this case, a vehicle does not meet the legal definition of a deadly weapon in that it was, what's referred to, as a crime of violence under the law, and by that I mean the legal definition for crime of violence — this is not a crime of violence under the law. So there are a number of criteria that we looked at, as well as likelihood of rehabilitation, so whether or not the juvenile is likely to be rehabilitated through this process. And the court would have had to look at all those things in deciding whether to transfer the case to adult court... We put a tremendous amount of analysis into it. Ultimately, the juvenile was willing to plead to all of the charges and accept jail time as a consequence, and we believe that was the appropriate outcome," he explained.

In a rare move months after the crash, several parents and business owners were indicted for allegedly allowing and facilitating the consumption of alcohol by teens during the prom night incident and on previous occasions. That case is still pending.

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