PANAMA CITY – A driver who had been “distracted” when he veered off the road, struck and killed a pedestrian has been sentenced to a decade behind bars.

Dijivis Temes Paul, 23, appeared in court Friday after entering an open plea of no contest directly with the court, according to records on file there. He has been in jail since Sept. 28, 2017, after a hit-and-run accident that left a pedestrian, 35-year-old Trinidi L. Coalson of West Point, Georgia, with fatal injuries. Despite Paul throwing himself on the mercy of the court, he was sentenced to the maximum for leaving the scene of a crash involving death, court records show.

Paul will have to serve the first four years without accruing gain time that could shorten the 10-year sentence.

The crash happened about 6:30 a.m. Sept. 28 in the 900 block of East Avenue in Panama City. The Panama City Police Department reported Coalson was walking on the shoulder of East Avenue when a car driving in the opposite direction hit her.

According to PCPD reports, Paul was the driver and was “distracted by something within the vehicle” at the time of the crash. PCPD did not clarify the type of distraction, but officers reported it was sustained for some time.

“The distraction was such it caused (Paul) to drive several feet in the bicycle lane where a white female pedestrian was walking,” officers wrote. Paul “struck the pedestrian with the vehicle he was in physical control of causing her death as a result.”

Paul fled the scene but was followed by witnesses. About 10 blocks away, he was pulled over by police and taken into custody.

Coalson was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead from her injuries.

During the court proceedings, Paul attempted to have an apology letter delivered to the victim’s family through the court. Paul admits in that letter he made a “mistake” and goes on to say he recently completed seven years of felony probation for being a principal to armed robbery.

“I am not a bad person and if I get another chance at life I will be able to show everybody that,” Paul wrote. “I wish I could talk to the victim’s family and show them that even though I did not know the victim I am still hurt from the situation and it affected the way I think about a lot and I understand that anything can happen on any given day so we should cherish our loved ones.”