Plea Deal for Drunk Driver that Killed Andy Garcia Does Little to Ease Pain of Victims, Friends, and Families
Even the judge looked confused when the plea deal offered to Wendy Villegas was read out in court, says a somber Mario Lopez.
Villegas could have been sentenced to up to 15 years for having come tearing up the bridge on Cesar Chavez drunk last September 14th, slamming into Luis “Andy” Garcia and dragging his bike under her car, launching both Lopez and Ulises Melgar into the air, and fleeing the scene.
Instead, she was offered a deal of 3 years and 8 months — a sentence that fit within the window of what she might have gotten just for driving drunk and leaving the scene of a crash. And, because she is young and has a clean record, she will likely only serve a portion of that time.
The deal makes it painfully clear to her victims and their friends and families that she will not be asked to atone for the human cost of the havoc she wreaked that September night. And, they are not happy about it.
“How did it end up wrapping up so fast like that?” asks Melgar.
It’s a good question.
The damage had been severe. Garcia died on the scene, while both Melgar and Lopez had ended up in the hospital. The compression fracture Lopez sustained in his lower back forced him to move back home with his parents and lose three months of work.
And, there was no shortage of evidence linking her to the crime, including a witness — “my personal hero,” as Lopez calls him — who saw what happened and followed Villegas as she weaved her way home that night. Because he had been able to get her license number, the police were to verify that she had been driving drunk when they booked her — still intoxicated — at 7:15 the next morning.
Yet, the young men were not consulted about the plea offer. Nor were Garcia’s parents. The only chance any of them had to participate in the legal process was to read out statements about how Villegas’ actions had affected their lives when she finally entered a “no contest” plea last month.
“It just infuriates me sometimes,” says Lopez, shaking his head over how effectively they’d been shut out of an opportunity to seek justice. “I’d be semi, semi-happy if she did 3 years and 8 months. But she’s not [going to].”
We are sitting in a largely empty IHOP in Downtown L.A. so, as Lopez put it, we could have “something sweet as we discuss[ed] something not so sweet.”
But the smiley-faced pancakes Lopez ordered do little to make the conversation easier as we turn to what life has been like for them since that night.
The first days had been hard, they agree.
They couldn’t accept what had happened, despite having seen it unfold in front of their eyes. Read more…