Evan Githens, a Santa Barbara man who led authorities on a high-speed chase in a stolen truck in October with a woman and two young children in the car, pleaded no contest Thursday to multiple felony counts, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Those felony counts — child endangerment, vehicle theft, evading officers with willful disregard for public safety, and hit-and-run causing injury — on top of Githens’s admission to prior convictions for elder abuse and witness intimidation and a previous prison sentence, will earn him 10 years in state prison. Githens’s formal sentencing is scheduled for December 5.
According to the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices, Githens, 28 at the time, was driving a stolen Chevrolet work truck on October 7, and when officers spotted the stolen vehicle on Highway 101, they tried to pull him over near the Las Positas Road exit. But Githens didn’t pull over, instead leading authorities on a high-speed chase through downtown, driving through stop signs and speeding at 60-70 miles per hour on the wrong side of the street. The chase came to a violent end when Githens hit two cars near De la Vina and Arrellaga streets, then ran away. He was apprehended a few blocks down the road. Githens’s girlfriend, as well as a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old she was babysitting, were in the truck during the chase. The children weren’t seriously hurt, but the drivers of the other two cars had to be treated for their injuries at the hospital.
“This case demonstrates the significant consequences associated with the callous behavior exhibited by the defendant and his utter indifference for public safety and law enforcement,” said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod, who handled the case. Weichbrod said that Githens’s prior prison sentence stemmed from a January 2007 conviction for assault that could cause great bodily injury and that Githens’s other convictions — for elder abuse and witness intimidation — resulted in a suspended sentence, for which he was on probation at the time of the October incident. If a jury had found Githens guilty for his October crimes, those charges plus his probation violation could have netted him a 19-year prison term, Weichbrod said.