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Convicted drunk driver not guilty of murder in Nick Adenhart crash, defense attorney says

September 14, 2010 | 12:48 pm

Andrew Thomas Gallo is responsible for causing a crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends, but he is not guilty of murder, his attorney said Tuesday in opening statements.

“He did it, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life," said defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman. "But Andrew Gallo is not a murderer.”

In her first statements to jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom, Goodman painted a picture of Gallo as a young recovering alcoholic who had tried to overcome his addiction twice before.

According to prosecutors, Gallo had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.19% -- more than twice the legal limit -- when he ran a red light at a Fullerton intersection in the early morning on April 9, 2009, colliding with a vehicle and killing Adenhart, 22, driver Courtney Stewart, 20, and Henry Pearson, 25.

A fourth passenger, Jon Wilhite, 25, was critically injured and has made a slow recovery.

Gallo, who was convicted in 2006 of driving under the influence, was on probation at the time of the fatal crash.

In the days and months leading to the crash, Gallo always had a designated driver, Goodman said Tuesday. It was his designated driver, stepbrother Raymond Rivera, who encouraged him to drink the night before the crash, Goodman said.

“They just drink and drink and drink too much,” she said, to the point that Gallo blacked out and ended up in Fullerton, where “neither Andrew or his brother have any connection or ties or knowledge of why they were there.”

Despite that behavior, Gallo’s actions do not rise to the standard of murder, she said.

“What happened on that night, when all those kids met in that intersection …was something that captured the heart of Orange County,” Goodman said. But “we don’t have a murder.”

Earlier in the day, Orange County prosecutor Susan Price told jurors Gallo had been warned multiple times not to drink and drive because it could lead to someone's injury or death, and that he disregarded those warnings on the night of April 8, 2009.

"This case is about an evening of pure indulgence and a night of total disregard," Price said during her opening statements Tuesday.

-- Paloma Esquivel at Santa Ana Superior Court