BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The driving behavior of Mark Gallegos early Christmas morning 2018 clearly shows he wasn’t able to safely operate a motor vehicle, a prosecutor said.
“He was speeding,” Tara Deal said. “He drove through red lights.”
And he hit an SUV at 73 mph — more than twice the posted speed limit — seriously injuring two girls, one of whom suffered paralysis and brain damage, Deal said during her closing argument Thursday at Gallegos’ trial. She asked the jury to return guilty verdicts on all counts.
Gallegos’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Clinton Pierce, acknowledged his client made “some serious mistakes,” but said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Gallegos was drunk when the crash occurred. He argued it’s possible Gallegos’ blood-alcohol content was below the legal limit at that point and had continued rising until he was tested two hours later.
“Something horrible occurred,” Pierce said, but he argued Gallegos isn’t guilty as charged.
Jurors will begin deliberating Friday morning on four charges: two felony counts of DUI causing injury, hit-and-run causing permanent serious injury and driving without a license. The trial began Tuesday.
Gallegos, 23, admitted to driving the car that at 2:10 a.m. hit a Honda Pilot carrying five people heading home after visiting relatives. He also admitted to leaving the scene, telling authorities he ran from his wrecked car because he was scared.
That’s no excuse, Deal told jurors. Instead of checking on the occupants of the Honda, Gallegos decided to look out for himself. He knew what he’d done was wrong so he took off, she said.
The crash happened when Gallegos ran a red light at the intersection of Sterling Road and Niles Street. The Honda was traveling between 35 to 40 mph.
One of the Honda’s occupants, Emmy Elias, then 12, suffered permanent brain damage and paralysis. She can’t move by herself or communicate.
Another occupant, Ariany Ramirez, then 11, also suffered brain injury and had to learn how to walk again. She continues to experience memory loss and seizures.
“It’s extremely clear in this case that both little girls suffered very, very serious injuries,” Deal said.
Pierce said Gallegos left the scene to get to a hospital for treatment of a broken ankle and other injuries. Kern Medical staff noticed his injuries were consistent with being in a crash and told a California Highway Patrol officer who was at the hospital interviewing occupants of the Honda.
“He didn’t go and hide,” Pierce said. “He didn’t go and change his clothes so he wasn’t recognizable.”
As to alleged intoxication, he said officers who testified didn’t present calculations as to how they determined Gallegos was drunk at the time of the crash and his BAC dropping by the time he was at the hospital. Instead, Pierce said, they made a bunch of assumptions, among them that the alcohol had been fully absorbed before the crash.
It’s not a crime to be drunk after you’ve driven, Pierce told the jury. Gallegos’ blood-alcohol content tested at .105 and .103%, above the legal limit of .080%.
In her rebuttal argument, Deal said it’s “ridiculous” to argue Galleos wasn’t impaired, noting he told officers he stopped drinking “way before” driving, and the numbers show his BAC was dropping, not rising.