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Music editor sentenced in deadly drunk driving accident

Mark David Skillingberg gets one year in jail for the 2009 crash that killed a 72-year-old man, whose family pleaded with the judge for a harsher punishment. Skillingberg had pleaded no contest.

March 05, 2011|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

A movie and TV music editor was sentenced Friday to one year in jail for a drunk driving accident that killed a 72-year-old Culver City man, despite tearful pleas from the victim's family for a harsher punishment.

Mark David Skillingberg, who worked on the music for "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" and "The Vampire Diaries," pleaded no contest to one count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.

Skillingberg, 32, was driving east on Pico Boulevard near Veteran Avenue on Oct. 27, 2009, when he crashed into the driver's-side door of Gebregziabher Gabremadhin, killing him instantly, said L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Stefana Antonescu.

Skillingberg's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, and he was driving about 20 miles above the speed limit, Antonescu said.

Friends and family members packed a courtroom at the Airport Courthouse to plead for a harsher sentence and to remember Gabremadhin, an Ethiopian immigrant they described as a hardworking family man.

"This man just snatched my dad from my life," a weeping Mona Gabremadhin told the judge. "If you kill a person, you should spend more than a few months in jail."

Skillingberg has no criminal record and investigators who reconstructed the accident determined that Gabremadhin was trying to make an illegal U-turn at the time of the accident. The district attorney's office ultimately offered a plea agreement because a trial "would likely reach the same result," Antonescu said.

If Skillingberg completes his probation without incident, the felony charge can eventually be reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged from his record. As part of his plea agreement, he also received five years' probation and mandatory alcohol education classes.

Judge Katherine Mader expressed sympathy for the victim's family but referenced a probation report that concluded that Skillingberg was not a danger to the community and would learn from the experience.

"Mr. Skillingberg was obviously drunk and he made the decision to drive," she said. "But he is not going unpunished."

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