Jimenez said that he is on probation for possession of marijuana for sale. Investigators had recovered from the Nissan a plastic bag holding 4.7 grams of marijuana. Jimenez said the bag did not belong to him and he hadn’t given it to Sudac.
During the trial, defense attorney Herb Weston suggested that the driver of the Ford fell asleep or was “inattentive” or that “for whatever reason” he was the one who lost control of his vehicle and smashed into the center divider. Weston proposed that it was the Ford that careened back out into lanes and caused a collision with the Nissan driven by Sudac. The defense attorney vigorously questioned highway patrol investigators. Weston said there were no fragments of broken taillights photographed where the investigators claimed the collision occurred.
Weston suggested that statements made by the driver of the Ford were too influential on investigators. “Maybe your theory is wrong,” he suggested to officers who testified.
Investigators said that the trailer hitch on the back of the Ford had made an obvious indentation in the Nissan, visible in photos taken of the front of the Nissan. Investigators documented the tire marks, which progressed for hundreds of yards down the freeway, climbing up onto the center divider and then back down onto the pavement in more than one place.
Weston called to the stand his own forensic expert and traffic accident reconstructionist, Stephen Plourd, who found fault with the highway patrol’s investigation and conclusions.
Sudac turned 30 years old on April 20, 2011, a day when the jury was being selected.
The seven men and five women heard evidence for two weeks from more than 30 witnesses. They deliberated a full day before finding Sudac guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run causing death.
Sudac had been free on bail, but on May 5, the day of the verdict, he was taken into custody.
Naomi, the daughter of the woman who was crushed to death, turned eight years old this month. On September 9, John Francis Sudac Jr. will be sentenced. He could get a maximum of 11 years in state prison, but he is eligible for good-conduct credits and could serve only half his sentence, according to the prosecutor. Villaflor said, “I’m pleased that the jury reached a just verdict and Sudac is being held accountable for what he did. But it’s never going to bring back Yine Gonzalez and her baby.”
Judge Runston Maino said at an earlier hearing, “Just for the record, I have heard some evidence that the woman who died was pregnant, and that appears to be six months pregnant. That, of course, means that you have another potential victim there. But whether the DA charges it is not up to me, but it’s there if you want to.”
The district attorney’s office did not bring charges for the unlawful killing of the unborn baby.