Driver gets jail time in connection with 'Zoom' star's death

Dan McDonald

By his own admission, Judge William Groff sent a "remarkable young man'' to jail Friday.

Hudson, Mass., native Gabriel King, the 20-year-old aspiring actor whose best friend was killed when King's car hit a tree and flipped in December 2006, was sentenced to 12 months in jail after pleading guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court South Friday to negligent homicide because of speeding.

Groff suspended six months of the sentence and told the dark-suited King he would probably serve four months.

The crash near the Hollis/Nashua town line killed Jared Nathan, 21, of Nashua.

Nathan and King roomed together at Walnut Hill School in Natick and shared an interest in theater. Nathan had been attending Julliard School, the prestigious performing arts academy in New York and had starred as a child on the WGBH program "Zoom'' during the late 1990s.

King, meanwhile, has been out on bail and was studying theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

King, of 25 Cornish Drive, Hudson, Mass., will be on probation for three years after his release, have his license suspended for five years, and serve 400 hours community service. The judge indicated King could use his oratory and theater skills by lecturing impressionable youths about the effects of reckless decision-making.

Groff was impressed with King's candid admission of guilt. During court testimony, the judge said, King had not attempted to deflect any responsibility for the car crash, opting to take the blame for his friend's death.

"I don't need to tell you or anyone else here that what happened was a tragedy,'' said Groff. "You're a remarkable young man and a good person, but you yourself have used the word reckless. There's no doubt what you did was reckless.''

At the request of King's lawyer, Paul Maggiotto, Groff gave King until Jan. 11 to get his personal matters in order before beginning his prison sentence.

King stoically met the gaze of Groff as the judge explained his sentencing. That stoicism quickly melted into tearful embraces at the conclusion of the hearing, as King hugged relatives and friends in the lobby of the third-floor courtroom.

King declined comment on the sentencing as he led a phalanx of loved ones down several flights of stairs and outside.

King had faced two negligent homicide charges - one that connoted drunken driving.

That charge could have landed him in jail for a maximum sentence of 15 years.

The county attorney's office dropped that charge because it was a "weaker case,'' said Kent Smith, the assistant county attorney. Groff did touch upon the allegation that King, as well as Nathan, might have been drinking on the night of the accident.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Smith pegged King as "not the type of person to get in a lot of trouble,'' and doubted he would be a repeat offender.

"It really is a shame,'' said Smith. "But in order for the state to have any credibility, we had to request jail time.''

Dan McDonald can be reached at 508-490-7475 or

MetroWest Daily News