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Professor Convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter

February 03, 2001|KARIMA A. HAYNES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Daniel Jay Bussel, the husband of Los Angeles Police Commissioner Raquelle de la Rocha, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter Friday, nearly a year after he struck two pedestrians in a Van Nuys crosswalk, killing one.

Bussel, 40, a UCLA Law School professor, faces a maximum sentence of one year in County Jail, a one-year revocation of his driver's license and a $1,000 fine. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth A. Lippitt set sentencing for Monday.

"I think the jury saw the evidence correctly and returned an appropriate verdict," Deputy City Atty. Dan Kleban said. The jury deliberated about two hours, he said.

Mary Ett Brown, whose mother-in-law died in the accident, said she was relieved. "I guess justice was done and we can all get on with our grieving for our mother-in-law, Betty Brown," she said.

Reached at home, Bussel, a bankruptcy law specialist, said, "I have no comment right now."

The guilty verdict culminated a case that began with a traffic accident the morning of March 14, 2000.

Bussel was turning right onto Fulton Avenue at 4 mph when he hit the victims, Betty Brown, 73, and Juan Huerta, 29, both of Van Nuys, as they crossed Hillview Park Avenue, police said.

Bussel disputed the police account, testifying on his own behalf that that he did not see the pedestrians crossing the street until after he hit them, and insisting that he had come to a complete stop.

Bussel testified that he was taking his stepdaughter to school in his wife's Jeep Cherokee when he stopped at the stop sign and then rolled forward about 3 or 4 mph to get a better look at the traffic on Fulton.

Then he heard "a noise," stopped the vehicle, unbuckled the seat belt and got out, Bussel said. Huerta was jumping up and down and screaming. Brown was lying on the ground "dazed and disoriented, but not unconscious."

Police said Brown suffered severe head injuries. She died the next day. Huerta testified earlier this week that he suffered cuts on his hands and knees.

Brown's family has settled a wrongful-death suit against Bussel. The complaint sought reimbursement for medical and funeral expenses and other costs.

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