A 25-year-old Laguna Niguel man was convicted Wednesday of felony hit-and-run driving and of falsely claiming that his father was behind the wheel of the Porsche that struck and killed a 17-year-old bicyclist.
Gary Haw was also convicted of felony conspiracy to obstruct justice, along with his father, Ronald Haw, 49, of Culver City, who was at home at the time of the accident.
Gary Haw was driving his father's black Porsche in Laguna Hills last Sept. 8 when he passed a van that had slowed for bicyclist Jason Theodore Klein and struck Klein, throwing his body about 300 feet.
Son Concocted Scheme
At the scene, the son concocted a scheme to put his father behind the wheel so that insurance would cover the damage to the $80,000 sports car.
Both father and son were convicted by Orange County Superior Court Judge James K. Turner of lying to a police officer, a misdemeanor.
However, the judge acquitted Gary Haw of a vehicular manslaughter charge; the judge said it was not proved that the victim's death resulted from "gross negligence."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Pat Donahue said he would have had to prove that Gary Haw perceived impending danger before the accident, ignored warning signs and caused the accident by failing to act responsibly.
"Those are close calls," Donahue said. "I'm not disappointed. . . . They both could go off to state prison for three years" with the felony convictions.
Turner scheduled sentencing for Sept. 16.
"I'm happy with it (the verdict)," said Anna Renzoni, Klein's sister. "The hard part is over."
But Jelte Klein, the victim's father, said his satisfaction "depends on the sentencing."
"I am pleased with the outcome," said Paul S. Meyer, Gary Haw's attorney. "The case required the judge to go beyond emotion and deal with the factual evidence."
In closing arguments Wednesday, Donahue said that Haw caused the accident by "recklessly weaving in and out of traffic" and driving "like a race car driver." Donahue cited statements and testimony given by eyewitnesses.
But Meyer said that although it was "clear that Mr. (Gary) Haw was exceeding the speed limit," the accident was "unavoidable." Meyer said Haw would not have had enough time to react even if he had been traveling at 45 m.p.h., the posted speed limit on the stretch of Alicia Parkway where the accident occurred.
Gary Haw testified that after hitting Klein, he telephoned his father and asked him to come to the scene of the crash. He said he then called a friend, whom he arranged to meet near the accident scene in order to have her relay instructions to his father.
The friend, Linda Eder, testified during the trial that Gary Haw instructed her to tell his father to claim to police that he was driving the car in the middle lane at the time of the accident, and to act "disoriented and confused" when he spoke to police.
Meanwhile, according to court testimony, the son told police the same story, adding that his father had gone for help after the accident and was probably lost.
The elder Haw, who was spotted by a police helicopter search about two hours after the crash, testified on Wednesday that he did not think he was doing anything wrong in concealing the facts of the incident because he did not believe that his son was at fault in the matter.
However, the story fell apart the day after the crash, when California Highway Patrol Officer Brian Dean told Ronald Haw that an eyewitness had placed his son behind the wheel of the Porsche and that it was a crime to lie to police.
The Haws remain free on their own recognizance.