Maximum sentences handed down in USC hit-and-run case
His body scarred and broken, Marcus Garfinkle told a downtown Los Angeles court Monday how he woke up on a sidewalk moments after the hit-and-run crash that changed his life.
His bones stuck out from his legs. Blood gushed from his abdomen. His limbs were torn by glass, shards of which he picks out of scars 14 months later.
The USC student had been walking another student home that night when a dark Infiniti sedan struck them at a crosswalk near campus, killing Adrianna Bachan, 18, and sending Garfinkle hurtling through the car’s windshield. As Bachan lay motionless, a passenger in the car jumped out, hauled Garfinkle off the vehicle and dumped him onto the sidewalk before speeding off.
“I was treated like an animal,” Garfinkle said in a tearful address. Now 20, he said he cannot walk across a street without experiencing flashbacks or a sense of dread. “I live every day in pain.”
At an emotional sentencing hearing, the husband and wife who were in the car offered their apologies to the families of the two victims, though few in the audience accepted the contrition as genuine.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry sentenced the couple to the maximum prison terms possible: eight years for Claudia Cabrera, the driver, and seven years for Josue Luna.
“The acts of the defendants … were outrageous and shocking,” Perry said. “These actions were extremely callous.”
Authorities say Cabrera, 31, and Luna, 34, were driving home on Jefferson Boulevard when they ran a red light in the early hours of March 29, 2009.
Prosecutors said Cabrera fled, in part, because she had been drinking at a party earlier in the evening. She had also had her driver’s license suspended and a lawsuit filed against her following a previous collision, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Janis Johnson.
But Cabrera denied driving drunk.
“This was a terrible accident that nobody could have prevented,” she told the courtroom packed with friends and relatives of both victims. “I’m sorry for my acts that night. I’m truly ashamed.”
A preschool teacher with five children, Cabrera said she did not immediately turn herself in after the collision because she was afraid.
“I am not a monster,” she said, looking back at the audience. “I hope that all of you can find in your hearts to forgive my husband and me.”
“Never,” several members of the audience murmured.
The couple pleaded no contest in March to a felony charge of hit-and-run causing great bodily injury. Cabrera also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter.
Bachan’s older sister, Alexandra, accused Luna and Cabrera of refusing to take responsibility for their crimes until “their backs were up against the wall.”
A projector screen in court flashed up images of her younger sister, from an infant in a high chair to a confident-looking teenager smiling in a black dress.
Bachan was an honor student in high school who loved to sing and play soccer and volunteered at a Santa Barbara festival for underprivileged children, said her mother, Carmen.
“She was a truly renaissance woman,” her mother said. “Her potential was limitless.”
Outside court, she said she would work to change the law so that defendants convicted of hit-and-run would face the same lengthy prison terms as drunk drivers who cause accidents.
“I’ll never see my Adrianna graduate. I’ll never see my Adrianna get married, have children,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to go through this.”