- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A South Korean man pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges that could get him up to 40 years in state prison for driving drunk and causing a high-speed crash that killed two teenagers in a car on a busy Las Vegas road nearly a year ago, attorneys said.

Seong Mo Lee, 23, had been set to stand trial next week, and would have faced evidence that he was driving a Mercedes sedan at 117 mph in a 45-mph zone when it slammed into a Nissan Versa making a slow U-turn on Boulder Highway early March 5, 2015, prosecutor Brian Rutledge said.

“This is a tragic case where an individual who was already facing DUI charges made the decision to drive drunk yet again,” Rutledge said. “We intend to ask for a sentence of 14 to 40 years in prison to send a strong message that these actions will not be tolerated.”

Lee’s defense attorney, Kathleen Bliss, also characterized the case as tragic. But she said she’ll argue against keeping Lee in prison until he’s 62.

“Mr. Lee has chosen to plead guilty and accept responsibility for his conduct,” Bliss said.

Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish is scheduled to sentence Lee on April 18.

Lee’s blood-alcohol level was measured after at just under 0.17 percent after the crash killed Kamesha J’Nyah Gilmore, 17, and Gabriell Rene Thomas, 18, Rutledge said. That is more than twice the legal limit in Nevada.

Rutledge said Lee had a misdemeanor drunk driving charge pending against him at the time of the wreck, stemming from a July 2014 drunk-driving arrest involving allegations that his blood-alcohol level was nearly 0.15 percent and that he had an open container of alcohol and was talking on a cellphone in a Toyota RAV4 he was driving.

Lee has been held on $4 million bail, after Rutledge told a judge last March he feared that Lee would flee the U.S. to avoid the possibility of a long prison term.

Lee’s previous lawyer acknowledged at the time that Lee isn’t a U.S. citizen, and had been living with his parents in Henderson for eight years.

Lee is expected to face deportation following his prison sentence.

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