By John Clark
A California drunk driver was arrested last week on suspicion of causing at least three different hit-and-run accidents in one night, according to a remarkable report from the San Jose Mercury News.
31-year-old Justin Mendoza was taken into custody by Napa police last weekend after his night of illegal activity finally ended when officers discovered him hiding in a creek bed, according to sources.
The night of driving peril started around 11:00 p.m. last Friday when Mendoza was cruising around Napa, California at an alarming speed, and with very little regard for the customary rules of the road.
The first two collisions occurred around 11:00 p.m., and both occurred on Silverado Trail Road. At least one of these hit-and-run accidents involved an injury, as well.
Then a third collision happened on the same road, and this accident led to one car completely flipping over. When police arrived on the scene, they saw a man sprinting away from the overturned vehicle that was involved in the crash.
Predictably, the man who was fleeing turned out to have been the culprit who allegedly caused all three accidents on the same stretch of road, but police had to do a bit of legwork before they caught Mendoza.
Sources say that the police who originally responded to the scene called for additional help, and the officers eventually set up a large perimeter around the area where Mendoza had fled.
After setting up a broad perimeter, the officers enlisted the aid of a police dog, which eventually discovered Mendoza hiding in a creek bed near a small river.
They soon learned that Mendoza was the registered owner of the overturned car, and promptly escorted him to jail after seeing that he displayed obvious signs of intoxication.
But before he was taken to jail, Mendoza, who is a resident of Yountville, California, was sent to a hospital for treatment for what sources call “minor injuries.”
After his DUI arrest, Mendoza was charged with drunk driving and also causing three different hit-and-run crashes.
The extent of Mendoza’s criminal penalties will depend on a number of factors, including his prior history, his level of inebriation at the time of the arrest, and the nature of the injuries and property damage he caused through his irresponsible driving.
In California, even minor, first-time DUI offenses can lead to heavy fines, a suspended license, or even jail time, so Mendoza likely faces a significant amount of punishment, if the tale of his epic driving adventures proves true.
A resident of Horsham, Pennsylvania was sentenced to eight years in prison this week after pleading felony DUI charges stemming from an accident in which he killed two of his childhood friends, according to a sobering report from the Philadelphia Daily News.
30-year-old Connor McNicholas had previously reached a plea deal with the prosecution that included his admission to committing several crimes, including homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence, and recklessly endangering another person.
The accident offered in August 2011, when McNicholas was reportedly driving his Honda Civic more than 100 miles per hour when it veered off the highway and crashed.
At the time, there were four passengers in the vehicle. Of those four passengers, two, Robert Walker Nagel and Edward Taylor Coombs, both only 19, were killed. McNicholas and other two passengers in the car were treated at a nearby hospital, but only sustained minor injuries.
When he was arrested, McNicholas blew a .117, which is well above the legal blood alcohol limit of .08. While his BAC reading is not as high as the level of many other DUI arrestees, it is still at a level where drivers are severely impaired.
Sources say that McNicholas was sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison, but the judge left open the possibility that he could be released after four years, although only time will tell whether he is able to serve the shorter sentence.
As might be predicted, the sentencing hearing was very emotional, especially given the fact that the victims’ families were present.
And the victims’ families did not mince words when discussing the accident. Eric Coombs, the father of one of the teenage boys who died in the accident, told McNicholas that he held him “personally responsible for the death of my son” and said the drunk driver “took the heartbeat out of my life.”
In an equally emotional response, McNicholas told the court at the end of the hearing that “[i]t breaks my heart to know that they don’t have sons anymore and I’m responsible for that.”
The sentencing hearing closes one chapter in a nightmare story for McNicholas, who had just finished his sophomore year at Temple University before the accident occurred.
During his sophomore year, McNicholas had won all-conference accolades for his play on the school’s golf team, and he was named the Most Outstanding Rookie Performer during the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship tournament. Sadly, it will be a long time before he is able to golf again.
Drunk drivers typically meander their way beyond the bars they leave, but some drivers aren’t able to resist returning to their watering hole, as evidenced by the recent actions of a woman in South Carolina.
73-year-old Ellon Williams was arrested for drunk driving after she drove her car through a restaurant into a pub in South Carolina last week, according to a recent report from WECT News.
Sources say that Williams was trying to leave the One More Grill and Pub shortly after 10:00 p.m. on Thursday night when she unceremoniously slammed her car into her favorite dining sport.
According to the police report, Williams told investigators from the South Carolina Highway Patrol that she thought she had put her car in reverse when she stepped on the gas, but it appears that she actually had her vehicle in drive.
Miraculously, no one involved in the accident was killed, despite the fact that the pub had a relatively full house that Thursday night.
The owner of the restaurant, Rebecca Stallings, says there were more than 30 people singing karaoke in the building when Williams drove her 1989 Mercedes-Benz through two plate glass windows in the front of the building.
After slamming her car into the pub, Williams was able to bring her car to stop in the front portion of the building, which may have spared a few lives.
Sources say that three people who were in the building were taken to the hospital, but all three injured parties have been treated and released.
One of the injured people, Lin Shelton, a regular at the One More Grill and Pub, reportedly lost a tooth and injured her leg in the incident, and she provided reporters with a harrowing story about the crash.
In her words, “[i]t sounded like an explosion. My back was turned so my instinct was just jump in the air because I felt stuff coming toward me, and it clipped me in the leg, threw me up in the air.”
After she was struck by Williams’ car, Shelton crawled through a back door, but she quickly ran back into the building to help free one of her friends who had been pinned between a pool table and a wall.
Fortunately, the wild DUI accident did not kill anyone, nor will it close the business. The owner of the restaurant, which has been at its current location for 13 years, plans to re-open the business soon.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has issued a warrant for the arrest of a man who allegedly crashed his car while driving drunk and left his severely injured wife at the scene, according to a shocking report from Oklahoma’s News on 6.
Sources say that Jerry Arthurs is wanted by state police for leaving the scene of a DUI accident in which his wife was paralyzed from the neck down.
The crash occurred on New Year’s Eve in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Arthurs was reportedly driving while intoxicated down a dark country road when he smashed his vehicle into a tree on the side of the road.
Neither Arthurs nor his wife was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, but Arthurs’ wife, who is the mother to the couple’s 6-month-old son, clearly suffered the brunt of the force of the impact.
After the accident, Arthurs reportedly called some friends to come and retrieve him while he left his wife suffering in the passenger seat. Police later discovered his wife, who spent 33 days in the hospital recovering from her injuries.
At first, doctors feared that she would be a quadriplegic because she could only feel sensation above her neck. However, after four months of rest and rehabilitation, she can reportedly use her arms and hands, and is regaining some movement in her legs.
According to Chiane Arthurs, the victim of the crash, “I can walk with a walker, not by myself, I have to have assistance. But I can take steps and stuff.”
Of course, the injury and her husband’s incredible actions have left emotional scars. In her words, “you cannot imagine the struggle and emotional and physical pain and everything that comes with an injury like this. It completely turns your life upside down.”
Fortunately, though, the woman is recovering, and she says her son was her primary motivation to regain her strength. Not surprisingly, she has filed for divorce from her fugitive husband.
For his action, Arthurs has been charged with ten separate crimes, including leaving the scene of an injury accident, driving drunk and causing great bodily injury, failing to render assistance at the scene of an accident, and failing to report a personal injury accident.
When Arthurs is finally caught, he will likely face a sentence that is far more serious than what he would have faced if he hadn’t fled the scene of the accident.
According to a spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Arthurs is a “fugitive on the run, and we’ll spare no expense finding this person.”
A drunk driver has been sentenced to a year in prison after he struck a nine-year-old boy who was leaving a San Francisco Giants game last year, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.
The man, 22-year-old Andrew Alan Vargas, appeared in court last week for sentencing and expressed his remorse to the family of the boy whom he struck with his pickup truck last August.
Before the crash occurred, young Ryan White was walking with his family back to their San Francisco hotel after watching a baseball game at AT&T Park. The Whites, who are from Yardley, Pennsylvania, had traveled to the Bay Area to watch their favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
As a result of the accident, which was caused by Vargas’s misguided decision to drive the wrong way down a one-way street, Ryan White suffered a lacerated liver and a fractured pelvis.
The parents of the child, Ken and Roseanne White, were unable to attend the sentencing hearing because they had to stay in Philadelphia, where their son was undergoing his fourth surgery since the crash, sources indicate.
In a letter to the judge, however, the parents made pointed remarks to Vargas, claiming that he was “incarcerated because of [his] actions” but they also noted that their son was also incarcerated because of the man’s actions.
In their letter, the Whites said that Ryan’s injuries have rendered him unable to do all of his favorite physical activities, including swimming, bike riding, and performing martial arts.
To his credit, Vargas did apologize profusely, both to the judge and to Ryan White and his family, for his decision to drive under the influence of alcohol.
In his statements to the sentencing judge, Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis, Vargas claimed, “I have learned so much out of this, and I’m determined to turn things around for them and will do everything in my power to avoid others from making the same mistake that I committed.”
Interestingly, Ryan White’s parents supported Judge Davis’s decision to only sentence Vargas to a year in prison (sources suggest that, had she wanted to, the judge could have sentenced Vargas to a much lengthier prison term).
Sources say that the family gave their approval to a decision last month in which Vargas pleaded guilty to a felony DUI charge with great bodily injury. Charges related to a hit-and-run were dropped.
In the White family’s words, they did not want Vargas “to sit in jail forever and do nothing” because, from what they had heard, he was “a good young man.”
The tragic death of a law student at Northwestern University has led to drunk driving charges for a 21-year-old Illinois man who allegedly struck the student with his vehicle at a Chicago street corner.
Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that Bianca Garcia struck 32-year-old Jesse Bradley while he was walking in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, apparently in an effort to seek a late-night snack.
Sources say that Bradley was walking across a crosswalk on LaSalle Street when Garcia’s Jeep Liberty ran directly into him at about 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital declared Bradley dead at 2:54 a.m.
After the accident, Garcia reportedly fled the scene of the accident by driving the wrong way down a one-way street, but police officers pulled her Jeep over a few minutes after the collision.
Police officers were suspicious of the car because it had serious damage to its front end, including a missing headlight, and there was a significant amount of smoke coming from the engine compartment, according to the police report.
After police pulled her over, Garcia refused to submit to a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, but this did not prevent Chicago prosecutors from bringing DUI charges against her.
Sources indicate that Garcia has been charged with felony aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, and misdemeanor reckless driving. Police also cited her for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and for driving with a license.
After the accident, Garcia decline medical attention, but sources say that she eventually was treated for injuries, along with a 20-year-old woman who was riding in the backseat of the Jeep, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Sadly, Bradley was beyond the point where treatment would help. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bradley had taken a semester off from law school, but was planning to complete his degree this summer before pursuing a career in corporate law.
As he awaited the completion of his degree, Bradley had taken a part-time job at a local Starbucks, which was partially due to his self-admitted addiction to coffee. Bradley had lived in Chicago for about five years.
In a recent interview, Bradley’s sister expressed feelings that were shared by the rest of his family. In her words, “it’s just bizarre. It really shows you how life can change in an instant. He was healthy. He was living. And he died. He should not have died at 32.”
A man colorfully described by the Washington Post as a “South Florida polo mogul” was convicted on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide this week after a fatal drunk driving crash that occurred two years ago.
A jury in Palm Beach County convicted 48-year-old John Goodman on both of the felony charges, which were raised in response to the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Sources say that, two years, ago, an inebriated Goodman sped through a stop sign and slammed his Bentley into Wilson’s car, which caused Wilson to roll into a canal, where the victim eventually died.
Shockingly, Goodman reportedly fled from the scene and waited roughly an hour before calling 911 to report the incident. At the time of the accident, sources say that Goodman’s blood alcohol level was measured at .177, which is more than twice the legal limit.
Despite the negative verdict, Goodman’s DUI attorney, Roy Black, said that he and his client plan to appeal the decision, though he did not offer any concrete examples of the portions of the trial the two would be challenging.
Nevertheless, in Black’s words, “multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial. We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law.”
Of course, the prosecutors in the case feel differently. According to State Attorney Peter Antonacci, “the jury in the Goodman case exercised sound judgment in its analysis of the factual and expert evidence in this trial.”
In addition, Antonacci observed that “Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future, and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott’s family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”
The Goodman trial has captured the attention of many legal observers in Florida due to the shocking nature of the accident, and the relative wealth of the accused man.
Goodman is the founder and owner of the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, and, as evidence by the use of his Bentley on that fateful night, has plenty of cash to burn.
Now, thanks to one very, very poor decision, Goodman faces the potential of spending the next 30 years in prison. Sources do not suggest whether the judge is leaning towards a lighter sentence, but this will be determined at the sentencing hearing on April 30.
A 57-year-old Washington resident who was driving “drunk and angry” when he killed a man during a DUI car crash was recently sentenced to four years in prison for committing vehicular homicide, according to a report from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The accident occurred last July, when Patrick Stevan Rexroat lost his control and crashed his car while trying to chase down another car in an apparent episode of wild road rage.
After he lost control of his Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, Rexroat slammed into a car traveling in the opposite direction. The impact of the collision killed Stephen Lacey, a father of two who worked as an engineer for Google.
Sources indicate that Lacey was returning home after a shopping trip to Costco when Rexroat slammed into his vehicle.
Tragically, the accident was apparently caused by a senseless act of road rage. After the accident, Rexroat reportedly told a responding officer that he had been cut off by another driver while on Interstate 405 and that he had chased the offending driver off an exit ramp into an arterial road.
In February, after recognizing the potential costs of a trial, Rexroat pleaded guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and reckless driving. At his sentencing this week, King County prosecutors recommended the maximum jail term for the wayward driver.
Superior Court Judge Susan Armstrong agreed with this assessment, and sentenced Rexroat to the maximum possible sentence of four years in prison.
In her sentencing decision, Judge Armstrong may have been swayed by witness testimony that claimd Rexroat started beating on his chest as he was standing on the side of the road after the crash.
Even more disturbingly, one witness told police investigators that Rexroat allegedly responded to the news that the other driver was dead by simply saying, “eh.”
Because of these actions, the prosecutor said Rexroat had a “flagrant disregard for the value of human life.”
Though this may not be true, it cannot be argued that Rexroat showed a blatant disregard for DUI laws and the health of his liver.
Sources indicate that, at the time of his arrest, Rexroat had a blood alcohol level of .29, which is more than three times the legal limit of .08.
In the words of King County Prosecutor Don Satterberg, “[t]he tragic death of Steve Lacey was not an accident. It was the predictable result of aggressive driving under extreme intoxication.” Rexroat will now suffer the consequences of this aggressive driving for several years.
A South Carolina man as found himself in legal hot water after striking a highway patrol officer’s car while driving drunk, according to a report from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Sources indicate that the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office has charged 44-year-old William Patrick Pitre of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing damage to a police vehicle.
According to the police report, the wreck occurred early last Friday morning on a rural road near Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The trooper whose car was struck was reportedly driving about 35 miles per hour down Cannons Campground Road when Pitre drove his vehicle into the back of the trooper’s car, according to the incident report.
The collision was powerful enough to push the trooper’s vehicle off the shoulder of the road, and the trooper was later taken to the hospital for evaluation, though sources do not indicate whether he was serious injured.
After the DUI accident, Pitre was also treated for injuries at the hospital. He was later jailed and released from the Spartanburg County Detention Facility after posting a $997 bond, as indicated by online jail records.
Pitre will face a challenging legal task as he attempts to prove his innocence. According to a deputy who responded to the scene after the accident, Pitre’s car had a strong odor of “intoxicating beverage,” a sensation that was also experienced by the trooper who was struck by Pitre’s vehicle.
Surprisingly, every week the news cycle seems to introduce a new character who drove drunk and then ran into a police car. And the number of incidents in which drunk motorists strike other cars, or even pedestrians, is infinitely higher.
Even though some drivers might feel they are capable of driving after having a few drinks, high levels of alcohol on one’s system leads to increased response times, slower reflexes, and poor decision-making.
Some anecdotal surveys also suggest that some drunk drivers may be visually attracted to lights, thus making them more susceptible to steer their cars into other vehicles with activated lights.
In light of these realities about the nature of drinking and driving, motorists should remember that driving while drunk can have serious consequences that far outweigh the perceived convenience of driving home after a night of drinking.
Public transportation, taxis, walking, and designated drivers are all possible alternatives to driving while intoxicated. Smart drivers should take advantage of these options, and avoid the heavy fines and possible jail sentence that DUI convictions often bring.
Frederick J. Weller, a Massachusetts resident, is facing his fifth DUI charge, along with several other felony charges, after allegedly causing a five-car crash that led to the death of a 24-year-old woman.
The 35-year-old Weller, who is from Sandy Hook, Massachusetts, reportedly caused a massive traffic accident last week in Sheffield, Massachusetts, according to a recent report in The Berkshire Eagle. The accident left one woman dead and another driver has been hospitalized and is in serious condition.
Sources indicate that Weller, who has been arrested four previous times for driving under the influence of alcohol, is being held without bail in the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction.
Police often hold suspects without bail if they believe they are a risk for flight or have committed a serious enough offense that it warrants keeping them behind bars pending a trial.
Sources say that, during his initial arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court, Weller was “emotional” when the judge ordered that he be held without bail until he faces a “dangerousness hearing” next week in court.
If Weller fails to prove to the court that he is not a danger to others upon release, he may have a continued stay in jail until he has a chance to prove his innocence at trial.
In addition to his fifth DUI charge, which warrants a serious felony penalty itself, Weller is also facing charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of property damage, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, and intimidating a witness.
According to the police report, Weller allegedly left his vehicle after the accident and threatened two witnesses before he left the scene on foot. When he exited his car, witnesses claim that Weller appeared injured and bloodied.
While Weller has a long history of drunk driving offenses, he also apparently has a lengthy criminal record for other offenses, as well.
Sources say Weller was arrested in August 2011 at his home in connection with a complaint about potential larceny. He was also charged with threatening a witness after a DUI accident in 2005.
For his actions, Weller could be facing a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine. Judges are often less lenient with multiple DUI offenders, and the addition of a fatality into the DUI accident raises plenty of alarms in a courtroom.
With his shaky record, and the sordid alleged details of the recent incident, Weller is likely facing a very lengthy prison term.
Following a trend that seems to have taken over the DUI news airwaves, another drunk driver rammed his car into a building last week. This time, the victim of the drunk driving was a California apartment complex.
According to a report from KTXL News in Sacramento, California, residents at a local apartment complex received an odd awakening last Saturday night when a wayward drunk driver slammed into their building around 2 a.m.
The accident occurred after a speeding car piloted by a drunk driver ran over several bushes and took out a sign advertising the apartment complex, which is very close to Sacramento City College.
After taking an ill-advised detour through the building’s front lawn, the driver ended up slamming into the kitchen of one of the building’s residents, although the resident was not injured in the accident.
Miraculously, the woman who lived in the unlucky apartment had exited her kitchen just moments before. Sources indicate that, if she had stayed in the kitchen doing her homework for a few minutes, the impact of the collision would probably have killed her.
According to the woman who was the victim of the crash, she was “extremely shocked” about the incident and remained very distraught the morning after the accident.
In her words, “[m]y kitchen is exposed, we had to barricade the door area, so that no one would break in or so no debris would come in.” Fortunately, though, her apartment has remained safe since the collision.
After the accident, the driver and the passenger of the car that mistook a kitchen for a parking lot were treated at a local hospital for relatively minor injuries.
The driver, who has yet to be named, will eventually be arrested, but authorities will wait until he is released from the hospital before they apply handcuffs and formally arrest him.
Such collisions are more common than one might think, as the weekly news wire often offers shocking tales of drunk drivers who wind up in people’s living rooms.
The proliferation of such stories shows just how dangerous drunk driving can be. When people operate cars while they are under the influence of alcohol, they are a serious risk to both themselves and to others.
Thankfully, not every DUI incident involves a serious collision. In fact, more often than not, drunk drivers are pulled over by police before they have an opportunity to do serious harm.
Nevertheless, the odds of being involved in a fatal accident increase exponentially when you get behind a wheel after having too many drinks.
A hit-and-run DUI driver is facing serious legal trouble after causing an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol with a 2-week-old-infant in his car, according to a recent report from the Napa Valley wing of Patch.com.
Sources indicate that the initial collision occurred on Saturday in the parking lot of a large shopping center in Napa, California. After the accident, the driver that caused the collision sped away from the scene.
The suspect, 23-year-old Adam Steven Gloria, a resident of Napa, was ultimately captured by police, and now faces serious charges, including felony child endangerment and drunk driving.
According to a shift activity log from the City of Napa Police Department, Gloria is currently in jail, awaiting the court’s judgment on his criminal charges, which also include failing to properly secure a child in a vehicle, and recklessly driving while fleeing from the scene of an accident.
After the collision occurred around noon, the victim called police to let them know she had been in an accident in the parking lot of the shopping center and also that the suspect had fled in his vehicle. It seems the victim was unaware that the other driver had children in his car.
Thanks to some witnesses’ identification of Gloria’s vehicle and license plate number, a sheriff’s deputy from Napa County soon located Gloria shortly after the accident.
After police discovered him, Gloria admitted to being involved in the collision, and he also admitted to fleeing the scene, which he said was precipitated by his possession of a suspended license.
Shockingly, though, Gloria had his 2-week-old infant in his car, in addition to two other passengers, when police pulled him over.
The inference sources draw from this discovery is that the baby and the other passengers were in the car at the time of the accident.
Courts have very little patience for drivers who put children at risk by driving drunk with them in the car, so Gloria could face serious jail time for his transgression.
And, in addition to the potential legal consequences of his arrest—including prison time, heavy fines, or a suspended license—Gloria may also have to face civil liability for any injuries he caused to the other driver.
If she wishes to file a civil lawsuit, she may be able to obtain damages from Gloria for damage to her car, physical injuries, or other tangible losses. In other words, Gloria’s legal nightmare may continue for the foreseeable future.
A man with a history of driving under the influence of alcohol allegedly crashed his pickup truck unto a California condominium, causing serious injuries to a homeowner who remains in critical condition, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.
According to Lt. Tom Albergo, a police officer in Escondido, California, a 23-year-old man who is believed to be responsible for the accident is currently under police custody on suspicion of drunk driving.
The man, whose name has not yet been released, apparently has a previous DUI conviction, which adds another layer of intrigue to a potentially tragic story.
The crash occurred around 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, after the unnamed man was driving eastbound on Country Club Lane in Escondido when his car suddenly leapt over a curb, struck an electric transformer, and crashed through the back patio of the condo.
A 14-year-old girl inside the condo miraculously suffered only minor injuries when the car drove into her house, but her father, who had been outside on the patio, was pinned under the pickup truck.
The girl’s father suffered critical injuries after being struck by the struck. Firefighters had to pull out him from the wreckage with special equipment, and they later transported him to a hospital where he is being treated for a broken leg, a concussion, and serious facial wounds.
At the time of the accident, two other family members were inside the home, and they are not reporting serious injuries.
For his actions, it is highly likely that the man who caused the accident will be charged with a felony DUI—and perhaps even worse if the injured father does not survive his injuries.
A felony DUI conviction carries very serious consequences, including a long sentence in prison and serious fines. Of course, it may also include a suspended license, although this would seem to be the least of the alleged DUI driver’s current concerns.
The driver’s previous DUI convictions also complicate his defense in court. Judges typically give stronger sentences to drivers who have had other convictions for drunk driving.
While first-time offenders aren’t usually treated with kid gloves, they do often receive lighter sentences than people who have already been hauled into court on suspicion of drunk driving.
So, while the man anxiously awaits word on the condition of the father that he struck, the court will determine how to handle his charges. How soon, exactly, should a man who engaged in such an irresponsible act be allowed to reenter society?
In a tragic scene that seems pulled from a bad Lifetime movie, a young illegal immigrant has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after committing a felony DUI that led to the death of a Catholic nun and severely injured two others.
Late last week, 24-year-old Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drunk driving accident that occurred in August 2010, according to the Washington Post. The sentencing took place at the Prince William County Courthouse in Mannassas, Virginia.
Sources indicate that Martinelly-Montano had already been convicted of felony murder charges during a trial in October, and had been awaiting news of his sentence for several months.
According to the police report, Martinelly-Montano was driving drunk when he steered his Subaru into a guardrail and then swerved into the opposite lane on a narrow, two-lane stretch of road in Bristow, Virginia.
When he veered into the wrong lane, he struck a blue Toyota Corolla that belonged to three nuns who were members of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. The nuns were traveling from Richmond to Bristow for an annual retreat.
The tragic accident led to the death of Sister Denise Mosier. In addition, Sisters Charlotte Lange and Connie Ruth Lipton, both of whom are in their 70s, were badly injured in the wreck.
The high-profile case drew attention not only for the tragic identity of its victims, but also the legal history of the perpetrator.
According to sources, Martinelly-Montano, who was originally from Bolivia, had previously been arrested twice for other drunk driving charges. In addition, before the fatal accident, federal authorities had scheduled a deportation hearing with Martinelly-Montano.
Alas, Martinelly-Montano was not deported, although he claims that his time in jail and the death he caused have led him to “dedicate himself to God.” This journey towards a new faith may have been aided by the injured nuns, who apparently have shown him forgiveness.
Despite this forgiveness, though, Martinelly-Montano must deal with the legal consequences of his actions. At trial, he pled guilty to five different charges, including involuntary manslaughter, driving on a revoked license, getting a third DUI offense in five years, and two counts of maiming while driving under the influence.
All told, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison, which has led some critics to suggest that the judge’s sentence of 20 years was too lenient for Martinally-Montano.
After a long legal battle, which included the resolution of a dispute about the validity of the charges at the Illinois Supreme Court, a woman finally pleaded guilty this week to an aggravated DUI after causing a multiple-car accident that killed two motorcycle drivers.
According to the Chicago Tribune, 27-year-old Alia Bernard recently pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated felony DUI after she admitted to having marijuana in her system when the fatal crash occurred.
Sources indicate that the fatal accident occurred in May 2009, when Bernard apparently bent over to grab her sunglasses and lost control of her vehicle.
When Bernard, a resident of Aurora, Illinois, was reaching for her glasses, she rear-ended a stopped car on an Illinois state highway at a very high speed. The collision sent the stopped car flying forward, and it then struck another car that was waiting to take a left turn.
When this second collision sent the turning car further into the intersection, the car created an obstacle for two motorcyclists who were lawfully traveling through a green light. The force of the collision killed both motorcyclists.
In all, the accident that was started by Bernard’s negligent driving involved nine different vehicles, injured 12 people, and resulted in the death of Wade and Denise Thomas, who were 44 and 45 years old, respectively.
Originally, prosecutors alleged that Bernard was texting when the accident occurred, although she and her DUI lawyer offered a different story.
According to Bernard’s lawyer, “[i]t was sunny and the sun was bouncing off the chrome of the motorcycles and she went to get her sunglasses and when she looked up, there was a car in the road.”
In addition, even though tests showed that Bernard tested positive for marijuana, she claims that she had not smoked pot for three or four days before the accident and was completely sober when the collision occurred.
Despite this claim, though, prosecutors raised her charges from the lesser crime of reckless homicide when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that any amount of an illegal substance in a driver’s system during a fatal accident warrants the charge of aggravated DUI.
This news has upset some legal experts in Illinois, as it suggests that, for example, drivers who smoked marijuana several days before getting into even a minor accident could still be liable for an aggravated DUI charge.
In response, supporters of the decision say that a zero-tolerance policy will deter drivers from getting behind the wheel if they have a shred of doubt about their sobriety.
Regardless of the validity of the decision, Bernard has admitted responsibility and pleaded guilty to the charges. Sources indicate that Bernard, who has no past criminal record, could face six to 28 years in prison.