Beau Robertson, the driver of a vehicle that plummeted off the San Ysidro Road overpass onto the southbound lanes of Highway 101 on October 14, 2007, was sentenced on Monday to eight years and four months in state prison for charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, two cases of vehicular manslaughter, and three cases of bodily injury resulting from a car accident
Robertson had been celebrating his 29th birthday with girlfriend Sara Pezzimenti and her friend Kelly Ruiz before he chose to get behind the wheel while still drunk. The two female passengers were not wearing their seatbelts when the vehicle was driven off the bridge, onto the freeway where it was struck by an oncoming car. Pezzimenti and Ruiz were killed in the crash, Robertson was badly injured, and several of the five passengers in the oncoming car that collided with Robertson’s vehicle sustained minor injuries.
Judge George Eskin’s courtroom was full of emotional family, friends, and supporters of Pezzimenti and Ruiz. Eskin opened the floor to any who wanted to make a statement, saying, “I’m not going to deprive anyone the opportunity to speak,” even though the right is sometimes reserved for only the family members of the victims and defendant.
Ruiz’s mother was the first to speak, prefacing her extemporaneous comments by saying, “It’s from my heart.” Addressing Robertson, she said, “[My daughter] left and she came back in a box,” tearfully explaining how she couldn’t even bear to touch her daughter’s body. She finished her statement, during which she had been crying and expressing her hatred of the defendant, by yelling, “You have destroyed this family. May you go to hell.” Ruiz’s aunt and father spoke in a similar vein, though with a greater degree of control. Her aunt blamed Robertson for never having supplied, “an apology, an ‘I’m sorry,’ no remorse.”
Pezzimenti’s mother gave a completely different speech, opening her remarks with the statement, “We strive to be a civil society.” She pleaded for Eskin to “consider a different sentence.” Though her daughter had also been killed by Robertson’s bad judgment, this mother explained that “spending time with him alleviates my pain,” speaking of Robertson, her late daughter’s boyfriend. “I believe it would honor Sara’s legacy” to show compassion and mercy, she said.
Finally, a letter written from Robertson to the Ruiz and Pezzimenti families was read by Robertson’s attorney. In apologetic and heartfelt letter, Robertson asked the families to “find it in your hearts to forgive me and find peace,” later explaining that if he could take the place of either of the daughters, he would. The letter also dramatized the shock that the defendant was and is still feeling saying, “I was in love, it was my birthday, and we [he and Pezzimenti] were going to be married.” How could something so good go so wrong, Robertson asked in the letter.
When it came time for Eskin to decide upon a sentence, he prefaced his decision by explaining how complicated and difficult the case was. The judge said he had received 28 letters on behalf of Ruiz, four on behalf of Pezzimenti, and 44 “reference letters” that describing Robertson as a wonderful person. The Ruiz family called for revenge and vengeance in their letters – “an eye for an eye,” wrote Ruiz’ aunt – while the Pezzamenti family asked for a “probationary sentence” and mercy.
Eskin explained that never in his years as a judge has be gotten so wide a range of responses about a single person, making his decision process even more difficult. Robertson’s clean record and commendable behavior – he made an early plea and admitted guilt so as to avoid putting the families through a long trial – were also taken into consideration in the sentencing.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who prosecuted this case, commented once the sentencing was over, saying, “This was a tragedy for everyone included, but one that could have been avoided had the defendant not driven a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. It could have possibly been mitigated had he ensured that his passengers had worn seat belts.”