Driver gets suspended sentence in traffic fatality
December 20, 2012
A 19-year-old Smith Valley man was fined $697 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to the 2011 traffic death of a 51-year-old Mound House man.
East Fork Judge Tom Perkins suspended a 90-day sentence for Juvenal Devin Pineda who pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the July 2011 death of Jeffrey Gray.
According to reports, Pineda was making a left turn from Airport Road to Highway 395, and pulled out in front of Gray’s vehicle. He told investigators he didn’t see the vehicle before he attempted the turn.
The maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“The second I saw that red Subaru (Gray’s vehicle), I knew we were going to collide, and there was nothing I could do,” Pineda said. “I ran out of my car to help. I knew it was totally my fault. I take full responsibility.”
He suffered minor injuries.
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Pineda tested negative for alcohol or any controlled substances in his system. According to the Nevada Highway Patrol, Gray tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine which prosecutor Erik Levin said was “substantially over the limit.”
Levin said the victim’s drug levels were considered factors in the accident by the Nevada Highway Patrol.
He also said Gray’s sister declined to appear in court to offer a victim impact statement, and didn’t want additional punishment for Pineda.
Attorney John Schlegelmilch said Pineda had been valedictorian of his Smith Valley High School class and was attending the University of San Francisco on scholarship doing pre-med studies.
He said Pineda earned all As and Bs and made the dean’s list his first year in college.
More than a dozen friends and neighbors from Smith Valley attended Wednesday’s hearing to support Pineda.
“This is not a young man who ever intended to hurt anybody,” Schlegelmilch said. “He is respectful, and pleasant. He has tried wholeheartedly to continue his life. His family and friends are hear to support him.”
He said Pineda has performed many hours of community service in Smith Valley while he was in high school.
Schlegelmilch asked if Pineda could do his community service at the South Lyon Medical Center during his Christmas break, and at the hospital or trauma center in San Francisco when he returns to school.
Schlegelmilch said a number of factors mitigated the accident.
“That intersection has been the cause of a number of accidents,” he said. “The court is aware of the dangerous nature. This is not meant in anyway to take away my client’s responsibility. He made the mistake.”
The July 2011 accident was the third in a week that year, and the second accident in the general vicinity of Airport and 395 in four days.
“I don’t understand why the Nevada Department of Transportation thinks left turns there are OK,” Perkins said Wednesday.
“We take vehicular manslaughter very seriously,” the judge said. “You know what happened, and you are taking responsibility.”