BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County jury on Friday convicted a man of all charges in connection with a drunken driving crash that seriously injured two girls — paralyzing one — on Christmas Day 2018.
Mark Gallegos, 23, is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 28 and faces up to 16 years in prison. A prosecutor at trial said the evidence showed Gallegos was driving under the influence of alcohol and traveling more than twice the posted speed limit when his car ran a red light and slammed into an SUV.
Two girls were thrown from the SUV. Emmy Elias, then 12, suffered permanent brain damage and paralysis. She can’t move by herself or communicate.
Ariany Ramirez, then 11, also suffered brain injury and had to learn how to walk again. She continues to experience memory loss and seizures.
The collision occurred at 2:10 a.m. at the intersection of Niles Street and Sterling Road.
Gallegos left his wrecked car on foot and made his way to Kern Medical, where staff notified law enforcement a young man had arrived with injuries consistent with being in a vehicle crash, prosecutor Tara Deal said. Interviewed at the hospital, Gallegos admitted to driving the car and leaving the scene.
Testing performed a couple hours after the crash revealed his blood-alcohol content at .105 and .103%, above the .080% legal limit, Deal said.
Gallegos’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Clinton Pierce, argued at trial the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Gallegos was intoxicated at the time of the crash. He also said Gallegos left the scene because he was injured and needed treatment.
The trial began Tuesday and jurors began deliberating Friday morning, reaching a verdict within two hours.