Chasity Jones (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
ATLANTA -- After a guilty plea and a tearful apology, 23-year-old Chasity Jones was sentenced to 16 years in prison Friday afternoon for the traffic death of an Atlanta Police officer.
Jones admitted drinking and driving when her car struck Officer Gail Thomas the night of January 24, 2012.
Officer Thomas died instantly while trying to direct traffic around another wreck on Atlanta's I-78/I-85 downtown connector.
RELATED | Jones expected to plead guilty
PHOTOS | Fallen officer's funeral
After the Stone Mountain resident's guilty plea, Jones told the court she is still haunted by what happened.
"I remember the accident like it was yesterday. I continue to have dreams about it," she said, fighting back tears.
"I just want the family to know that I sincerely apologize for everything that y'all have been through. I apologize to my family," Jones added.
She admitted that she should never have gotten behind the wheel of her 1998 Honda Civic with 3 passengers headed for an Atlanta nightclub while still drinking Vodka punch on the way.
Officer Thomas' brother, Earl, told the court, "We're taking it very hard and we miss her."
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner testified that Gail Thomas had been a role model for many younger officers.
"She had a heart to serve our citizens," he added.
So many police officers showed up for the hearing that it had to be moved to a larger courtroom.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski urged the judge to send the public a strong message about the dangers of drinking and driving.
She asked for the maximum sentence of 15 years for vehicular homicide and an extra year for related traffic charges.
Calling photos of officer Thomas' body some of the worst he's seen in his legal career, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall said he wished he could give Jones extra prison time.
"I don't think 16 years is enough and if I had a choice, it would be more than 16 years," he said.