After hearing two mothers plead tearfully for the maximum possible punishment, a Superior Court judge Monday sentenced a Santa Ana man to two consecutive state prison sentences of 15 years to life for killing two youths in a traffic collision.
Before the sentence was handed down, Ruben M. Valle, 23, the first person in Orange County convicted of second-degree murder in a traffic collision, turned to the mothers in the courtroom and asked them for forgiveness.
Superior Court Judge William F. McDonald took the unusual step of sentencing Valle to two additional four-year sentences for manslaughter and an eight-month term for stealing the van he was driving at the time of the collision. But he said those additional sentences won't be imposed pending appeal or successful completion of the first sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.
Valle was arrested after he drove a stolen van through a stop sign in Costa Mesa on Dec. 19, 1984, and broadsided a car, killing its occupants, Billy Deering and Roy Williamson, both 17. They were students at Estancia High School.
Valle was traveling up to 65 m.p.h. before approaching an intersection at 19th Street and Placentia Avenue, where cars were backed up at a stop sign. Witnesses said he swerved the van into an empty lane and entered the intersection without braking.
Vicky Grange, mother of Billy Deering, and Sharon Williamson, Roy's mother, were in tears Monday, as they were last month when the jury's guilty verdict was read.
Prosecutor Rich King called the two mothers as witnesses to describe how their families had been affected by the deaths of the two youths. Both broke into tears as they told how the victims' younger brothers and sisters have not been able to stay alone.
The judge said he was sympathetic but cautioned the two mothers to put the tragedy behind them and get on with their lives, court officials said.
Defense attorney Michael A. Horan argued that consecutive terms were not appropriate or even legally permissible, but the judge said he had researched the issue and found that he could hand down consecutive prison sentences in the case.
Horan said that the sentences are "disproportionate to the crime" and that Valle will appeal. He said the judge gave Valle the maximum possible "and then some."
"I thought the judge would simply sentence him on the manslaughter convictions and that would be for about eight or nine years," Horan said. "I was absolutely amazed by what the judge did."
But King said the sentences are justified and authorized by law.
During the trial, Valle's defense was that he had a long history of drug abuse and that large quantities of sugar he had eaten the day of the collision had affected his mental state. A defense psychologist, Ronald Seaborn, testified that Valle was brain-damaged from years of drug abuse and was functioning "like a scared rabbit" during the four-mile police chase.