Update: The jury has found Navy man, Richard Sepolio, guilty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Sepolio was also found not guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter, driving over the legal limit and reckless driving. After the verdict was read the judge remanded Sepolio back into custody until sentencing. The court will reconvene on April 2nd for sentencing.
SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Jurors have reached a verdict in the trial of a man accused in a deadly crash off the Coronado bridge, it was announced Monday. However, the verdict will be read on Wednesday.
Navy petty officer Richard Anthony Sepolio, 27, is accused of driving drunk and losing control of his truck, which plummeted over the side of a transition ramp to the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and landed in Chicano Park, killing four people.
Sepolio is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI and reckless driving for the Oct. 15, 2016, deaths of Annamarie Contreras, 50, and Cruz Contreras, 52, a married couple from Chandler, Arizona; and Hacienda Heights residents Andre Banks, 49, and Francine Jiminez, 46. Seven other people were seriously injured.
The verdict is scheduled to be read at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the San Diego Central Courthouse to give parties involved in the case time to travel to the hearing. Courthouses were closed Tuesday in observance of Lincoln’s birthday. The jury began deliberating in Sepolio’s trial on Jan. 31 following closing arguments.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told the panel in closing arguments that Sepolio chose “to drive irritated, impaired and impatient.” Prosecutors argue that in addition to having drinks prior to getting behind the wheel, Sepolio was arguing with his girlfriend over the phone just moments before losing control of his truck on the bridge.
During her closing arguments, Bright talked about the four victims enjoying Chicano Park that day before “death fell on them from above.”
Earlier in the trial, Sepolio took the stand in his own defense. He told the jury the way he drove the day of the accident is the same way he drives any other day. Sepolio also testified that he had a cider beer with brunch that day and a glass of wine, but he says he was not drunk.
He also told the jury he was not on the phone at the time of the crash saying the phone call with his now wife had ended before he got to the exit for the bridge. Sepolio also hinted that his truck had been having some steering problems.
Sepolio says he was trying to pass someone on the ramp who was in the fast lane and that when that driver sped up, he also sped up and the next thing he remembers is his truck hitting the right barrier. He also said remembers looking down toward the ground and then his truck rolling over.
“He was very selective about what he wanted to remember,” said Pablo Trevino. “I don’t believe he was truthful at all.”
Trevino organized the La Raza motorcycle festival where Sepolio’s truck crashed killing four attendees.
“He showed no remorse” said Aurora Contreras – the sister of victim Cruz Contreras. “I don’t believe he was telling the truth in my opinion.”
In his closing argument, defense attorney Paul Pfingst said multiple breath and blood tests showed that Sepolio was not under the influence of alcohol the day of the crash. One blood sample was taken to a California Highway Patrol office and wasn’t tested for a year, Pfingst told the jury. “They took his blood and they destroyed it … and they say it’s no big deal,” the defense attorney said.
Pfingst also warned the jury not to let emotion cloud the evidence in the case.
“The only thing that could make this tragedy worse….the only thing that could make it worse is a convicting an innocent man of a crime he didn’t do, that’s just compounding the tragedy,” said Pfingst. Sepolio faces at least 23 years and eight months in prison if convicted of all charges.