Driver in Halberstam death sentenced to five days in jail

The UC Berkeley graduate student who caused the crash that killed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam was sentenced to five days in jail, probation and community service Thursday.

Judge Mark Forcum sentenced Kevin Jones, 27, to five days in jail, to be served in a work program, as well as one year of formal probation, one year of court probation, $24,600 in restitution fees to Lewis Morris and undetermined restitution fees to Christina Pinonlara, both of whom were injured in the three-vehicle crash in Menlo Park on April 23.

A visibly nervous Jones apologized to the Halberstam family for the loss of their patriarch, and said that his journalism career would be a tribute to Halberstam’s life.

“It’s the least I can do,” Jones said. “I will never forget the pain of losing him.”

Forcum also sentenced Jones to 200 hours of community service in schools, helping children learn to read and write.

“You have a lot of talent in journalism, and you can give something back to all of us by helping children succeed,” Forcum told Jones. “Obviously, son, you did not set out to cause any harm to Mr. Halberstam.”

Jones had been driving Halberstam to Mountain View for an interview with former professional football player Y.A. Tittle. Investigators said Jones, driving a Toyota Camry, made an illegal left-hand turn from Bayfront Expressway onto Willow Road, striking two other cars. All three drivers were injured, but Halberstam, 73, was the only death. The Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Jones’ license six months after the crash.

Jones pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter on Nov. 20. The charge had carried a maximum of a year in jail, but a plea deal with prosecutors had called for no more than 30 days.

Forcum chose the work program, partly at the urging of the Halberstam family, he said.

“My father would not have wanted to see Kevin Jones go to jail. Nor do I,” said Halberstam’s daughter, Julia, in a letter to the court. “But Kevin Jones has shown chronic carelessness behind the wheel and his behavior must change.”

When Jones was 19, he was pulled over in Washington for speeding and was found to be driving under the influence, according to court documents from Probation Services Manager Yvonne Kalber. Jones was also caught speeding July 10, 2007, and was in another accident March 19, 2005, Kalber said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said after the hearing that his office thought the sentence was fair and even “insightful” because Jones had shown genuine remorse.

bwinegarner@examiner.com  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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