Twenty-year-old Brandon Mark Moreno of Roseville was given a county jail term of 240 days with a suspended sentence of seven years in state prison today for causing the death of his friend, Brandon Keith, in a drunken driving collision.
Described by the prosecutor as a ‘party-goer’ who couldn’t refrain from alcohol or drugs, Moreno was placed on five years of formal probation and ordered to serve more than 21 months in jail by Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis.
Since the defendant, who has been in custody since the fatal incident, was given credit for serving 408 days in jail, he will need to serve 240 more days behind bars, the judge ordered.
If Moreno violates any of the terms of his probation while in jail or after his release, he could be sent to prison for seven years to fulfill the suspended sentence.
Among other conditions imposed on Moreno are 200 hours of community service, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, counseling and payment of $3,220 for various fines, fees and restitution programs.
The fatal incident occurred Dec. 20, 2008, when Moreno’s vehicle, carrying four occupants and being driven at an estimated 85 mph in a 45-mph zone, left the roadway on Foothills Boulevard and smashed into a tree.
Keith, a 20-year-old Roseville resident, died. Another passenger, Joseph Castillon, was injured. The third passenger was not hurt.
In June, Moreno entered a plea of guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury to Castillon and DUI with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher and causing the injury. All are felonies.
In addition, Moreno admitted to a special allegation of causing great bodily injury to Castillon, who suffered a spine fracture and a lacerated liver.
Prosecutor Kyle Jibson of the Placer County District Attorney’s Office told the judge that Moreno, then 19, had been arrested on a DUI charge in Sacramento only three weeks before the fatal incident in Roseville. The DUI charge in Sacramento County is still pending, he noted.
Jibson said Moreno ‘didn’t get the message.’
‘He continued going to parties and trying to decide where his next drink or his next marijuana would come from,’ he said. ‘He wasn’t legally eligible to drink, but he gets behind the wheel and continues to drive.
‘He’s been thumbing his nose at the justice system. He demonstrated that he couldn’t follow the laws of society. Why are we going to believe that he is now going to abide by the terms of his probation? He clearly demonstrated that he was a party-goer.’
Jibson urged Gaddis to send Moreno to prison for the seven-year term.
The sentencing was filled with emotion as statements were read to the court by family and friends of Moreno and by the family of the victim.
Moreno also spoke, issuing apologies to all those he had hurt and promising to seek help for his drinking problem. He said he plans to go back to college once he’s out of jail and pursue a career of being a chef.
His attorney told the court that Moreno, prior to the fatal incident, was working to help support his mother while also going to Sierra College.
‘He was doing this at 19,’ the attorney said. ‘I think it speaks to his character.’
But Troy Keith, father of the deceased victim, called Moreno ‘callous and completely reckless’ for driving drunk and traveling at nearly double the speed limit, despite having three passengers.
‘He was grossly negligent and had no regard for anyone’s safety,’ Troy Keith said.
Because of the defendant’s actions, ‘I have to wish my son a happy 21st birthday at his graveside,’ Troy Keith said.
Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Gaddis said he’s had ‘too many cases’ of young people drinking, driving and causing tragic accidents, despite the many warnings young drivers receive at school, from educational programs or from television and radio ads.
‘Sadly, young people don’t listen,’ he said. ‘They think, It can’t happen to me.”