Couple who ran over USC students get maximum sentence [Updated]
A judge handed down the maximum sentence Monday to a husband and wife convicted in a hit-and-run crash that killed one USC student and left another seriously injured as they walked home last year from a fraternity party.
Judge Robert J. Perry issued a sentence of eight years in prison for Claudia Cabrera, the driver, and seven years for Josue Luna, who was riding in the front passenger seat. Their 7-month-old son was in the back.“The acts of the defendants ... were outrageous and shocking," Perry said. “These actions were extremely callous.”
Authorities alleged that the couple's Infiniti sedan ran a red light and struck Adrianna Bachan and Marcus Garfinkle in a crosswalk near campus on March 29, 2009.
Bachan, 18, died from massive head injuries. Garfinkle, then 19, was carried about 300 feet down the street on the hood of the car but survived with multiple injuries, including two broken legs.
A student who witnessed the crash testified at a court hearing last year that he saw the car's passenger haul Garfinkle's body out of the vehicle's broken windshield while the driver pushed from the inside.
The student said the passenger dumped Garfinkle onto the sidewalk before the car sped off. In court papers, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Janis Johnson 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 where she had stopped, Johnson said.
"Adrianna's family will never see her smile. Adrianna's family will never hear her laugh. Society will never experience any more of a bright, talented, thoughtful and beautiful young lady," Johnson wrote.
Garfinkle required multiple surgeries. His family is fighting their health insurance company over more than $200,000 owed in medical bills, according to the court documents.
[Updated at 3:14 p.m.: In court Monday, Garfinkle recounted how he awoke on a sidewalk after the hit-and-run crash that changed his life.
He said his bones were sticking out from his legs and blood was gushing from his abdomen. His limbs had been torn by glass, shards of which he picks out of scars to this day, he said.
“I was treated like an animal,” Garfinkle tearfully told a downtown Los Angeles court, saying he cannot walk across a street without experiencing flashbacks or a sense of dread. “I live every day in pain .… I have lost complete trust in others.”]
Cabrera, 31, who had no criminal record, lied to police in an effort to pin the blame on her husband, the prosecutor wrote, adding that "her morals are questionable and her heart callous."
The pair allegedly tried to cover up the crash by getting the car's windshield fixed before having the vehicle towed to Tijuana, Mexico. Luna, 34, promised police that he would return the car but never followed through, Johnson said.
Both pleaded no contest in March to a felony charge of hit-and-and run resulting in great bodily injury. Cabrera also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter.
-- Jack Leonard
Photo: Josue Luna and Claudia Cabrera are led out of the courtroom after receiving the maximum sentence in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Photos: Tragedy at USC