By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — The driver convicted in a July 19, 2018 crash that forever changed the life of a 22-year-old Wausau woman was sentenced Friday in front of a courtroom jam packed with family and friends of the victim.

After nearly 90 minutes of emotional testimony, Circuit Judge Michael Moran sentenced 27-year-old Josie Romero to 7 1/2 years in prison followed by five years of extended supervision on charges of hit and run causing great bodily harm in connection with the crash, which left Molly Viehweg critically injured.

Moran also sentenced Romero to an additional six months in prison for cocaine and marijuana possession in an unrelated case. That sentence will be served consecutive to the hit and run sentence, which means Romero will spend eight years in prison unless she becomes eligible for early release. She will also be required to perform 125 hours of community service, 25 hours each year for five years.

Viehweg’s mother, Jenny Nienow, gave an impassioned plea for Moran to pass down the harshest possible sentence for Romero — 15 years in the Wisconsin Prison System — while describing her daughter as a “bright and beautiful” woman who had goals for her life that included finishing college, getting married and having children.

“Today, she acts like a small child,” Nienow told the judge, adding that her daughter now has difficulty hearing, walking and holding a conversation.

“You changed my daughter forever,” said David Viehweg, Molly Viehweg’s father, addressing Romero.

Romero’s defense attorney, Julie Sawyer, asked the judge to sentence her client to four or five years in prison and said Romero wants to become an advocate for distracted driving awareness.

But Assistant District Attorney Sid Brubacher painted a much different picture of Romero, telling Judge Moran Romero stole from coworkers, laughed after hearing reports of how Molly was faring after the crash, and was only glad Molly survived so Romero wouldn’t face a homicide charge.

“I believe the defendant is a threat to the public,” Brubacher said. “She’s probably never going to change because she justifies her behavior.”

Romero also addressed the court, reading a letter she wrote to Molly apologizing for the crash.

Many in attendance wore black t-shirts emblazoned with the logo #MollyStrong, which has become a rallying cry for ongoing support for Molly Viehweg as she continues to undergo therapy and treatment for her injuries.

Friends and family members continue to rally behind Viehweg with an established GoFundMe page to help Viehweg cope with mounting medical costs for her care. In addition to the ongoing campaign, a day-long fundraiser hosted Aug. 25 by Rib Mountain Taphouse and Mountain Edge Restaurant raised $33,000.