Separate murder trials for two alleged drunken drivers begin this morning in Orange County.
One you've heard a lot about, the other not so much.
Guess that's to be expected when a rookie phenom Angels pitcher is a murder victim in the more talked-about case.
However, batting first is the trial against Angel Herrera Leal, a 30-year-old Los Angeles resident facing one murder count for a December 2008 crash on the 5 freeway near Disney Way that occurred after the accused drove several miles the wrong way. Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the North Justice Center in Fullerton.
Leal could get a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison if convicted of killing 29-year-old Rebecca Moon, who was a passenger in a car driven by a woman who suffered abdominal injuries. Authorities say Leal, who already had DUI convictions in 2005 and 2007, blew .29 percent after the 4:45 a.m. wreck.
After several attempts to move the trial out of Orange County due to alleged pre-trial publicity, opening statements are also scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Santa Ana's Central Justice Center, whereAndrew Thomas Gallo
stands accused of killing Angels pitcherNick Adenhart
, 22;Courtney Stewart, 20; and Henry Pearson, 25. A fourth victim in the car driven by Stewart was Jon Wilhite, 24, who was critically injured but survived.
Gallo, 22, of San Gabriel, faces up to 54 years and eight months in state prison if he is convicted of all these charges: three felony counts of murder, one felony count of fleeing the scene of a traffic collision involving death or permanent injury, one felony count of driving under the influence causing injury, one felony count of driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol causing injury, and sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury.
He blew .19 two hours after the crash and was on probation for a prior San Bernardino County conviction for driving under the influence in 2006.
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The respective Orange County District Attorney's Office statements on the cases follow:
September 13, 2010
DRUNKEN DRIVER FACES TRIAL FOR MURDERING 29-YEAR-OLD WOMAN IN HEAD-ON CRASH WHILE DRIVING ON WRONG SIDE OF THE FREEWAY
FULLERTON - A driver under the influence of alcohol faces trial tomorrow for murdering a woman in a head-on crash while driving on the wrong side of the freeway. Angel Herrera Leal, 30, Los Angeles, is charged with one felony count of murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison if convicted. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, at 8:00 a.m. in Department N-13, North Justice Center, Fullerton.
At approximately 4:45 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2008, Leal is accused of driving several miles on the wrong side of the Interstate 5 Freeway in Anaheim near Disney Way. He is accused of having a blood alcohol level of .29 percent. Several drivers on the freeway had to avoid Leal's car and called 911 to report that he was driving northbound in the southbound lanes. Leal is accused of crashing his pick-up truck head-on into an oncoming Toyota Corolla, driven by 29-year-old Jisun Park.
Both cars involved in the crash spun and came to a stop on the freeway. Park's passenger, 29-year-old Rebecca Moon, suffered blunt force trauma to the head and was killed. Park was transported to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center for injuries to her abdomen.
Leal is accused of having two prior convictions for driving under the influence in 2005 and 2007 and was driving on a suspended license at the time of the crash. The defendant had completed alcohol education courses in Los Angeles County and was informed of the danger of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was advised that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
And . . .
September 13, 2010
DRUNKEN DRIVER FACES TRIAL FOR KILLING THREE AND CRITICALLY INJURING A FOURTH, INCLUDING ANGELS BASEBALL PITCHER
SANTA ANA - A drunken driver under the influence of alcohol faces trial tomorrow for killing three people, including a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball player, and injuring a fourth victim in an early morning car crash. Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, San Gabriel, was indicted by the grand jury May 27, 2009, on three felony counts of murder, one felony count of fleeing the scene of a traffic collision involving death or permanent injury, one felony count of driving under the influence causing injury, and one felony count of driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol causing injury. He faces sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury. Gallo has a prior San Bernardino County conviction for driving under the influence in 2006 and was on probation for this conviction at the time of the crash.
If convicted on all counts, Gallo faces a maximum sentence of 54 years and eight months to life in state prison. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, at 9:30 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
At approximately 12:23 a.m. on April 9, 2009, Gallo is accused of speeding in a minivan at approximately 65 mph in a 35 mph zone while under the influence of alcohol, on probation, and driving on a suspended driver's license. The defendant's license had been suspended due to a prior conviction for driving under the influence. Gallo's 21-year-old step-brother was the passenger in the minivan. Gallo is accused of driving eastbound on Orangethorpe Avenue in Fullerton and running through a red light, crashing into a Mitsubishi that was legally passing through the intersection and pushing it into a third car. The driver of the third car sustained minimal injuries with moderate damage to his car.
Gallo is accused of murdering three people in the crash and seriously injuring a fourth. The three murdered victims include 22-year-old Nicholas Adenhart, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim playing in his fifth professional season, 20-year-old Courtney Stewart, a student and former Titans cheerleader at California State University, Fullerton, and 25-year-old Henry Pearson, a law student working toward becoming a sports agent. The fourth victim, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, a former player for the Titans baseball team, was critically injured. He is now in stable condition.
After crashing into the victims' car, Gallo is accused of fleeing the scene on foot. He was arrested less than 30 minutes later approximately two miles away on the shoulder of State Route 91 by officers from the Anaheim Police Department. When contacted by officers, Gallo is accused of attempting to flee again and run from the police. Two hours after the crash, Gallo is accused of having a blood alcohol level of .19 percent.
As a result of the defendant's 2006 conviction for driving under the influence, he was required to participate in court ordered alcohol awareness classes, during which he was informed of the dangers of drinking and driving and told that driving while intoxicated could result in the death of himself or others.
The Fullerton Police Department investigated this case. Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.