Plea deal accepted in deadly DUI chase

An alleged drunken driver who faced up to 18 years in prison in connection with a police chase that ended in a fatal crash will spend four years behind bars.

Marco Espinosa, 28, a Redwood City gardener, pleaded no contest to one count of vehicular manslaughter Tuesday and was sentenced to four years in prison. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped charges of hit-and-run causing injury, DUI causing injury, fleeing from police and a five-year enhancement of leaving the scene of an accident.

Authorities say that on March 16, 2007, an intoxicated Espinosa led sheriff’s deputies on a chase from Redwood City to Atherton after they tried to pull him over for weaving on Middlefield Road.

“At one point, he went around a SamTrans bus and into oncoming traffic. The deputy broke off the chase because it was dangerous, but Espinosa didn’t know that. He kept on speeding and when he hit a [bump] in the road, he rammed into a couple of trees at high speeds,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Deputies came upon the accident at the corner of Middlefield Road and Heritage Court in Atherton, where they witnessed Espinosa running away, Wagstaffe said.

One of Espinosa’s back-seat passengers, 18-year-old Eduardo Reyes, of Redwood City, died after his head became wedged between the front seat and the roof of the crushed car, Wagstaffe said. Eder Reyes, the victim’s 19-year-old cousin, was injured but has since recovered, according to prosecutors. A third cousin, 21-year-old Cesar Reyes, was uninjured.

“It’s tragic that somebody loses their life and somebody else gets injured because you’re worried you’re going to get arrested for drunk driving,” Wagstaffe said.

On Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Chris Feasel said Espinosa has never expressed remorse for the accident. Nevertheless, Feasel said he is satisfied with the sentence.

“I respect the judge’s sentencing decision,” he said, adding that Espinosa will also be ordered to pay a still-undetermined amount of restitution to Reyes’ family.

tbarak@examiner.com

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