Prosecutors objected to a plea deal an Orange County Superior Court judge recently made with a 49-year-old man who drove drunk and caused a fiery crash in Buena Park that killed his passenger. James Ralph Huff was facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted at trial, but he instead received three years probation with no additional time behind bars.
The prosecution believed Huff deserved a stiffer sentence because he had a blood-alcohol level of between 0.09 and 0.11 at the time of the crash, but Judge Robert Fitzgerald said the defendant had partially punished himself by losing part of a leg and suffering severe burns and other injuries in the wreck.
Miguel Barahona lost more than part of a leg. The 28-year-old was burned to death in Huff's 1996 Porsche.
Huff, who pleaded guilty in May to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, was driving at speeds of up to 100 mph on March 29, 2009, when he lost control of his vehicle on Valley View Street in Buena Park. The car hit a curb, slammed into and uprooted a tree, smashed into a power pole and erupted in flames. The driver was pulled out of the Porsche by a passerby but there was no saving Barahona.
"I am tremendously sorry. It's been five and a half years and I still think about him and his family every day," Huff told City News Service's Paul Anderson after the sentencing hearing.