Official criticizes driver’s sentence in fatal hit-and-run
Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle on Tuesday blasted the recent sentencing of a driver who killed a popular doctor in a September hit-and-run accident.
Michael Jason Lopez, 40, of Anaheim was sentenced this month after pleading guilty to killing Catherine “Kit” Campion Ritz, who practiced in Newport and lived in Irvine, while she was bicycling along Newport Coast in September.
Four years in prison and one year in county jail is too light a sentence for a man who left the doctor in the street to die, Daigle said during the oral reports portion of Tuesday’s council meeting.
“Our community was robbed,” she said, calling the victim a significant citizen with considerable talents.
Lopez, who was driving a black pickup truck, fled the scene after he struck Campion Ritz, who was cycling with her husband, according to court records.
He pleaded guilty to one felony count of injury hit-and-run and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.
Because he fled, investigators will never know if he was drunk or otherwise impaired during the crash, Daigle said.
He was arrested three days after the crash.
“I do want to recognize the outstanding detective work of the Police Department who tracked this coward down,” Daigle said. “The sentence is very disappointing.”
After Campion Ritz’s death, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) introduced legislation mandating tougher sentences for deadly hit-and-run drivers.
He shelved the bill this month, knowing it wouldn’t make it through the state Senate Committee on Public Safety, which has a policy against passing legislation that would contribute to the state’s prison overcrowding, Mansoor’s Chief of Staff Chad Morgan said.
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