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4-year sentence for driver who hit joggers and fled

February 24, 2007|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A judge on Friday sentenced a homeless man to four years in prison for fleeing the scene of a collision that left two women permanently disabled, issuing the maximum punishment despite pleas for leniency from the victims.

Carol Daniel and Stacy Neria of San Clemente, through their attorney, said they forgave William Todd Bradshaw for the April 8 accident and noted that his decision to leave the scene afterward had no bearing on "the nature and extent of our injuries." They blame Dana Point officials for failing to correct dangers on Pacific Coast Highway.

"We respectfully ask the court not to impose an aggravated sentence," they said in the statement read in open court by attorney Sarah Serpa.

But Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. McNerney sided with prosecutors, finding that the defendant's three prior drunk-driving convictions showed an obvious disregard for the law and outweighed his acceptance of responsibility by a "substantial amount."

Bradshaw, 38, teared up during the proceedings, rubbing his eyes as his public defender, at his client's request, apologized to the women. He has been jailed since his arrest nine days after the accident and will receive credit for time served.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Price was satisfied with the sentence. She had asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty in spite of the victims' request, arguing that it was important to send a message to the public that people will be protected from drivers who disobey the law.

"This defendant showed extreme callousness toward these women whose lives have been forever changed," she said.

Neria and Daniel, each a mother of three, were jogging with two other women in the bicycle lane on the northbound side of PCH when they were struck by Bradshaw's car. The impact tossed Daniel about 60 feet, breaking her neck and pelvis and nearly severing her leg. Neria suffered a fractured skull, broken legs and a broken pelvis, nose and cheek. The other women were not injured. A tip led to Bradshaw's capture.

Serpa is representing the women and their families in lawsuits against Dana Point. Outside the courthouse after the hearing, she noted that her firm had exposed concerns about the same area of PCH in a lawsuit filed two years ago on behalf of an injured cyclist who was awarded a confidential settlement.

At that time, Serpa said, city officials were asked to do something to better delineate and protect the bicycle lane, which at one point is 11 feet wide and could lead drivers into thinking it's a vehicle lane, Serpa said.

"We believe the city of Dana Point could have avoided this accident," she said. "That bike lane was confusing."

City Manager Douglas C. Chotkevys did not return a call seeking comment.

Three months after the women were struck, the City Council approved spending $350,000 to install a wall between car traffic and bicyclists and joggers along that section of road.

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