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Driver convicted of murder in crash that killed Angels' Nick Adenhart, 2 others

September 27, 2010 | 11:04 am

Adenhart Andrew Thomas Gallo, 23, was found guilty of murder Monday in connection with the DUI crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others.

The April 9, 2009, death of Adenhart just hours after he made his first start of the season for the Angels, pitching six scoreless innings, shocked baseball fans and non-fans alike.

Courtney Stewart, a student and former cheerleader at Cal State Fullerton, and Henry Pearson, a 25-year-old law school student who was building a sports management business, were also killed in the crash.

Gallo had been convicted of driving under the influence three years before the crash and was still on probation when it happened.

When his blood-alcohol level was tested a couple of hours after the crash, it was 0.19%, more than twice the legal limit for driving, officials said.

Gallo was found guilty of three counts of second-degree murder, felony DUI and felony hit-and-run. He faces a sentence of 55 years to life in prison.

Jon Wilhite, 24, of Manhattan Beach survived the crash but sustained major injuries. Gallo's stepbrother, Raymond Rivera, broke his nose and wrist in the collision.

At the time of the crash, Gallo was 22 and a recovering alcoholic who had tried twice before to overcome his addiction, his attorney, Jacquline Goodman, said during the trial.

He always made sure he had a designated driver, and in the hours before the crash it was Rivera, his designated driver, who pushed him to drink, she said.

When the crash happened, Goodman argued, Gallo and Rivera were so intoxicated that it is possible Rivera was actually the driver. She conceded that it was unlikely and said Gallo didn't want her to argue the point.

But in the end, she said, even if Gallo was driving, he is not what people have in mind when they think of a murderer. He is a young man with bad judgment who is now caught in a tragic situation, she said.

"Use your common sense," she said. "Is it murder?"

For prosecutors, the answer was clear, noting his prior conviction for driving under the influence. He had been warned of the dangers of drinking and driving by a court, by friends and by family, they said.

During the trial, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Price showed video of Gallo and his stepbrother drinking heavily in a West Covina bikini bar before the crash.

-- Paloma Esquivel in Santa Ana

Photo: Nick Adenhart. Credit: Los Angeles Times