2 quarts of tequila lead to 3 years in prison
After consuming two quarts of tequila with some friends, Sergio Fonseca-Ortiz got behind the wheel of a car.
With a blood-alcohol level of almost four times the legal limit, he drove down Ski Run Boulevard on Sept. 22. The 22-year-old first ran his car into a parked truck before continuing on to hit Timothy Craig Blaha, 40, who was riding his bike on the edge of the road.
The impact projected Blaha off his bike onto the hood of Fonseca-Ortiz’s car before throwing him to the ground.
Fonseca-Ortiz continued on, not pausing a second, to see what he’d done.
On Thursday, despite defense arguments and pleas from Fonseca-Ortiz’s family and friends for leniency Judge Jerald Lasarow sentenced him to three years in a California state prison.
Fonseca-Ortiz entered a no contest plea Nov. 18 to the charges of felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence causing injury. Blaha suffered several broken bones and a fracture to his first lumbar vertebra in the impact resulting in paralysis. Now, more than three months into his recovery, Blaha told a probation officer he has partial movement in his legs and he may be able to walk with braces someday, but he will be permanently disabled.
According to the probation department’s report, Blaha is now living in a local motel with his belongings in storage because he can’t afford a residence. He lost his job, and has no insurance, but is getting help from various government agencies.
“I do not have anger toward the defendant,” Blaha told a probation officer. “But, I rely on the criminal justice system for the proper disposition.”
The defense presented a stack of letters from friends and former employers describing Fonseca-Ortiz as a hardworking conscientious young man who supported his wife and toddler twins. Fonseca-Ortiz has no prior criminal record, but he is an illegal immigrant. He’s been living and working in the Tahoe area for the past five years. On Sept. 22 he was driving without a valid driver’s license or insurance.
Fonseca-Ortiz expressed remorse during an interview with the probation department.
“What I feel the most is the victim’s life is always going to be like that. I would not like this to happen to someone in my family,” Fonseca-Ortiz said. “I cannot ask for anything. I know I am guilty. I have not been a person to do this kind of thing. How can I apologize to the victim I effected.”
Judge Lasarow said regardless of Fonseca-Ortiz’s remorse the factors against probation outweighed those in favor. Lasarow pointed out the level of Fonseca-Ortiz’s intoxication, his decision to leave the scene and not offer assistance, and his initial lies to investigators when he denied being the driver of the car.
Fonseca-Ortiz was also ordered to pay around $3,500 in restitution.
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