Drunk driver who crashed into Calif. FF sentenced

The driver hit multiple people and vehicles on the Fourth of July


Jessica A. York
Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A 29-year-old Salinas man who drunkenly drove into pedestrians and a Watsonville Fire Department crew on the Fourth of July was sentenced to jail Tuesday.

Rosendo Avila Aguilar pleaded no contest to a felony charge of drunk driving causing injury, with an added criminal enhancement for causing great bodily injury. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office dropped several charges, including hit-and-run causing injury and hit-and-run causing property damage, in addition to multiple enhancements, in exchange.

The firefighter and pedestrians hurt in the crash were not seriously injured, officials said.
The firefighter and pedestrians hurt in the crash were not seriously injured, officials said. (Photo/Watsonville Fire Department)

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati followed recommendations laid out in a Santa Cruz County Probation Department report, recommending that Aguilar be sentenced to a year in county jail and five years' probation. With time served and other credits, Aguilar is expected to serve a maximum of 73 days in jail, court officials said.

Cogliati said these types of cases are difficult for judges, who are required to weigh the crime against the likely impact of imprisonment on the defendant and their dependents.

"It's tough when you're making these choices," Cogliati said, addressing Aguilar's circumstances. "You've got kids you're supporting, you're supposed to be a role model for them and you're going out and getting so drunk that you have this humungous, dangerous, very significant crash that injures people, injures their property."

Those injured in the crash were not seriously injured, officials said at the time. No community members gave victim impact statements during Tuesday's hearing and Aguilar, who the court provided a Spanish-language interpreter, did not speak on his own behalf.

Defense attorney James McMillan said his client had expressed remorse and acknowledged his wrongdoing.

Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers argued that Aguilar, who was unlicensed but insured at the time, should serve his time in prison, rather than in jail.

"This was a terribly dangerous event," Byers told the court. "I recall when it happened, reading it in my newspaper, days later. You can imagine how many party-goers, revelers for Fourth of July were out there, on the street, in the buildings, in the parking lots. There's fire crews there, there's multiple fire units."

Byers said Aguilar tested at more than double the legal blood-alcohol limit after he drove his pickup into several vehicles and a battalion chief's truck. Firefighters were in the midst of responding to a 9:15 p.m. small brush fire in a vacant lot on Miles Lane at the time.

After his crash, Aguilar reportedly backed his truck up, striking several more parked cars, a firefighter, and two pedestrians — one twice, according to Byers.

Bystanders who had gathered in the area pulled Aguilar from his truck and physically restrained him until police officers could arrive, authorities said at the time.

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(c)2022 the Santa Cruz Sentinel

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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