Professor Given Probation in Fatal Car Accident


A UCLA law professor has been sentenced to three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service for negligent driving that killed a woman.

Daniel Jay Bussel, 40, was found guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after a jury trial last week in Van Nuys Superior Court.

He struck two pedestrians last March. Bussel testified that he didn’t see Betty Brown and Juan Huerta crossing a Van Nuys street until after his car, which had been rolling slowly toward an intersection, had already hit them. Huerta, 29, sustained minor injuries, but Brown, 73, suffered severe head trauma and died the next day.


“It appears to be simple inattention that resulted in this very tragic loss,” Judge Elizabeth A. Lippitt said at the Monday sentencing hearing. She also ordered Bussel to pay a $750 fine or make a $2,000 donation in Betty Brown’s name.

The maximum sentence for Bussel’s offense is one year in County Jail. But on Monday Deputy City Atty. Dan Kleban asked only for probation, community service and fines.

“There’s evidence in this case that Mr. Bussel is very remorseful,” Kleban said. “Putting Mr. Bussel in jail is not going to bring Betty Brown back.”

The prosecutor noted that Bussel wrote a letter of apology to Brown’s family last April although it was “not a legally advisable thing to do.” Brown’s family had also settled an earlier wrongful-death lawsuit against Bussel.

The car that struck Brown was owned by Bussel’s wife, Raquelle de la Rocha, who on Monday became the acting president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.