Celebrity Chef Lawrence Forgione was found guilty earlier today by a jury of his peers for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. He was not in the courtroom when the verdict was announced — he had flown back to New York, his place of residence, earlier today. Forgione struck and killed 90-year-old Gilbert Ramirez on February 24, 2018, when he drove through a red light at the mid-block crosswalk on State Street between Cota and Haley Street. Forgione and his defense counsel argued that the light was green.
Forgione opted for a jury trial when he turned down a plea bargain that would have included 30 days in jail. Forgione is now possibly facing a 12-month maximum jail sentence. Armando Gilbert Ramirez, the son of Gilbert Ramirez, said the family is not looking for maximum sentencing. “I requested 30 days, thinking he’d serve 10 or 15,” said Ramirez. “I just wanted him to put on the blue suit, sit behind bars, and for it to have a small impact, for him to sit through that.”
The family is no longer interested in the sentencing. With the announcement of a guilty verdict, the family can begin to move on, said Ramirez, who described the trial as a long journey. “This is closure today,” he said. Rebecca Bustos, the daughter of Gilbert Ramirez, flew in with her husband from her home in Arizona to attend the two-week trial. “My father would’ve never crossed on a red,” said Bustos.
A number of individuals who witnessed the collision were called to testify in the trial. Some said the traffic light was red, and others said they saw a green light after the collision. Santa Barbara city traffic engineer Derrick Bailey and Santa Barbara Police Department Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale both testified that they were certain the light was red. Both had examined the traffic light to ensure it was working as programmed. Video captured by Baja Sharkeez also showed a southbound red traffic light when Forgione drove through the crosswalk and hit Ramirez.
The family said they were very impressed with District Attorney Sarah Barkley. “She was unbelievable,” said Ramirez. “We were thinking, how could she lose? And she didn’t.”
Sentencing is scheduled for May 28.