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San Diego

A Pacific Beach man was placed on three years’ probation and ordered to serve four months in a sheriff’s work furlough program for a drunk driving accident in Clairemont on New Year’s Eve that resulted in the deaths of two passengers.

Richard William Stewart, 32, also was fined $1,000 by Superior Court Judge Donald W. Smith and ordered to provide restitution for medical bills incurred by families of the victims and three other passengers who were injured in the single-car accident.

All six occupants were thrown from Stewart’s compact car when he hit a telephone pole at 70 m.p.h. while traveling westbound on Balboa Avenue, just west of Mount Culebra Avenue, around 3:30 a.m.

Stewart, whose blood alcohol level was 0.14 when arrested, had pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter for the deaths of Fiona Griffiths, 31, of Pacific Beach and Kim Natwick, 29, of Irvine.

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Four other counts of drunk driving and committing vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence against Stewart, the only occupant of the car not injured, were dropped.

Stewart faced a possible 5 1/2 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine, but prosecutor Patricia O’Mara requested only a nine-month County Jail sentence because of circumstances surrounding the accident.

Defense attorney Robert Grimes said Stewart didn’t intend to drive when the group left a Pacific Beach bar, but the others decided that he should because he was the most sober.

Stewart, whose judgment was impaired from an evening of drinking, agreed to drive instead of taking a taxi as he intended, Grimes said.

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O’Mara, however, asked Smith to sentence Stewart for his actions because “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The judge agreed.

“He may be a model young man, but he wasn’t on this night,” Smith said. “He may have had the best of intentions but he didn’t take a taxi, instead he wound up behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound vehicle and killed two people with bad driving.”


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