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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Van Nuys

Driver Gets Probation in Pedestrian Fatality

February 08, 2001|CAITLIN LIU

A UCLA law professor has been sentenced to three years' probation and 300 hours of community service for negligent driving that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.

Daniel Jay Bussel, 40, was found guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter by a jury last week in Van Nuys Superior Court. He struck two pedestrians in March.

Bussel testified that he didn't see Betty Brown and Juan Huerta crossing a Van Nuys street until after he hit them with his car, which had been rolling slowly toward an intersection.

Huerta, 29, suffered minor injuries, but Brown, 73, died the next day of severe head injuries.

"It appears to be simple inattention that resulted in this very tragic loss," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth A. Lippitt at the Monday sentencing hearing. She also ordered Bussel to pay a $750 fine or make a $2,000 donation in Brown's name.

The maximum sentence for Bussel's offense is one year in County Jail, but Deputy City Atty. Dan Kleban asked only for probation, community service and fines.

"There's evidence in this case that Mr. Bussel is very remorseful," Kleban said Monday. "Putting Mr. Bussel in jail is not going to bring Betty Brown back."

The prosecutor noted that Bussel wrote a letter of apology to Brown's family last April even though it was "not a legally advisable thing to do." Brown's family earlier had settled a wrongful-death lawsuit.

The car that killed Brown was owned by Bussel's wife, Raquelle de la Rocha, who on Monday became the acting president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

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