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For the second time, Fabrizio Montermini is going to prison for driving drunk and killing an 18-year-old passenger in his car after a perilous ride in January 2006 that ended with a fatal T-bone collision.

Montermini, 24, was sentenced Monday to 14 1/2 years in prison after being convicted in May of third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide and six counts of criminal vehicular operation for causing the crash that killed 18-year-old Brian Fitzpatrick and injured several others. A jury acquitted him of five counts of kidnapping.

Montermini had been serving a 12-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2006 to criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and three counts of kidnapping, but the state Court of Appeals allowed him to withdraw the kidnapping pleas in 2009; the Ramsey County attorney's office vacated the other pleas soon afterward. Since he will receive credit for the slightly more than three years he has already spent in prison, the prison terms will not be drastically different.

Nancy Matson, Fitzpatrick's mother, wrote in a letter to Ramsey County District Judge Edward Wilson that it was very difficult to hear the details of her son's death again. After the accident, Montermini drove to a secluded church parking lot and pulled out his three unconscious teenage passengers, leaving them in the cold without coats or cell phones.

"I wish I understood why his appeal got approved," she wrote.

In allowing Montermini to withdraw his guilty pleas, the Appeals Court ruled he should have been allowed to present a mental illness defense based on his claim that he suffered from amnesia after the accident. At the trial this May, Montermini testified that he didn't remember the accident or what he did afterward. The jury declined to find him not guilty by reason of mental illness.

Montermini read a letter at the sentencing apologizing to the victims. He said he appealed his guilty pleas after he felt he was being portrayed as having kidnapped his friends in order to evade police.

"It's not an excuse to me that I don't remember," he said.

Earl Gray, Montermini's attorney, had argued that his client should be sentenced to probation. Prosecutors had asked that Montermini be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"This man has done everything he could possibly do for the last five years to right a wrong," Gray said.

Prosecutor Bob Plesha said the defense was continuing to act as if Montermini had been convicted of criminal vehicular homicide, but not murder. In court records, Plesha wrote that it was a "calculated defense strategy to 'plea bargain' with the jury, a strategy that fooled no one."

Wilson said public safety outweighed any other factors in his decision to send Montermini to prison. He noted that Montermini, who was on break from his freshman year at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., the night of the accident, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. He said he believed that Montermini intended to get drunk before driving his friends to a Maplewood nightclub and that he ignored his passenger's pleas to slow down.

"He had a rather special knowledge of the problems he had," Wilson said. "He had a real appreciation of the danger that was involved in drinking and driving."

Lora Pabst • 612-916-7212 Twitter: @lorapabst