OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) — An east Alabama attorney is serving one year in jail after pleading guilty to killing a man in a crash on I-85 crash in Opelika.

Thomas Ralston Jr., 51, of Maryland, was driving this car when he was hit from behind after stopping for an unrelated crash alongside I-85. Ralston was killed instantly. 

Evidence indicates the driver who hit him, attorney Nicholas Palerino, never braked before impact. 

“Mr. Palerino was traveling 75 to 79 mph. He was on his cell phone looking at social media apps and did not realize traffic had stopped,”’ Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere said. 

According to Palerino’s cell phone data, social media apps were in constant use for more than 5 minutes before the crash.

“I think a lot of times people think of themselves as the one that could be hurt and they don’t consider they could be the person who causes someone else’s death,” Ventiere said.

Earlier this month, Palerino pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, split to serve one. 

Ventiere urged the public to keep their hands off the phone and on the wheel while driving. She said this tragedy serves as a reminder it only takes a second of distraction to cause a lifetime of sorrow and regret. 

“He didn’t wake up in the morning saying I’m going to cause the death of somebody today.  We all need those reminders. Every single one of us needs reminders about texting, and calling because it only takes a second,” she said.

Palerino begun serving his sentence at the Lee County Detention Facility on Feb. 17. As a part of a sentence, he will need to speak with 10 groups about the dangers and ramifications of distracted driving.