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Attempt to resolve USC hit-and-run case fails

July 31, 2009 |  7:24 pm

An attempt to resolve charges against a husband and wife accused in the hit-and-run death of a USC student earlier this year broke down Friday when the couple rejected a deal that would have sent them to prison for several years.

Under the proposal, Josue Luna would have been sentenced to six years in prison and his wife, Claudia Cabrera, to four years, a defense lawyer confirmed.

Attorney Jeffrey Benice, who represents Luna, said his client is willing to serve more time than he ordinarily would in return for a reduced sentence for his wife. But he said the proposal made by prosecutors was unacceptable. Authorities say that Cabrera was driving and Luna was a passenger when their car ran a red light and struck Adrianna Bachan and Marcus Garfinkle at a crosswalk near USC on March 29. Bachan, 18, was killed.

Garfinkle, 19, was badly injured. Police said witnesses saw the passenger remove Garfinkle from the hood of the car before the vehicle sped off.

“Today we expected these people to take responsibility for what they’ve done, and we’re so disappointed that they haven’t,” Bachan’s older sister, Alexandra, said through tears. “Six and four years is nothing compared to the life sentences that my parents are serving in their grief.” Benice said the rejected offer included a longer sentence than the maximum four years in prison that his client would serve if he were convicted at trial.

The couple have no prior criminal convictions, he said, adding that they are willing to accept prison sentences of two years for Cabrera and four years for Luna. “The end resolution has to be just,” Benice said. “The D.A. made a proposal today that was unacceptable.” A district attorney’s spokeswoman said she could not comment on the negotiations.

--Jack Leonard