DRUNKEN DRIVER SENTENCED TO 13 YEARS IN PRISON FOR VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER AFTER CRASHING INTO TRAFFIC LIGHT POLE THAT KILLED NEPHEW AND INJURED BROTHER-IN-LAW
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A drunken driver was sentenced to 13 years and eight months in state prison for vehicular manslaughter after crashing into a light pole, killing his nephew and severely injuring his brother-in-law after refusing the offer of a bartender and police officer to call him a cab.
Tapu Aniceto Sitagata, 33, Santa Ana
Pleaded guilty on Sept. 8, 2017, to:
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
Driving under the influence with BAC .08% or more
Driving with a suspended license (DUI)
Inflicting great bodily injury
13 years and eight months in state prison
Circumstances of the Case
On the night of Dec. 20, 2010, Sitagata drank alcohol with several friends and relatives at Newport Five Cocktail Lounge in Tustin.
At approximately 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2010, the defendant and his group were asked to leave the bar by the bartender for becoming too rowdy.
The defendant and his group remained in the parking lot of the bar until after 2:00 a.m., at which time they refused the offer of the bartender to call them a cab.
At 2:20 a.m., an officer from the Tustin Police Department (TPD) contacted the defendant and his friends in the parking lot, instructed them not to drive, and offered to call a cab for the defendants.
Sitagata and his friends refused the officer’s offer and claiming that they had already called for a cab and were awaiting its arrival.
Minutes after the TPD officer left, Sitagata got into the driver’s seat of a Chevrolet Suburban and drove away from the bar.
At the time of the crime, Sitagata was driving on a suspended license with a blood alcohol level of .17 and was on probation stemming from a 2004 misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction.
The defendant’s 20-year-old nephew, Pesa Sitagata, was seated in the back seat and the defendant’s 34-year-old brother-in-law, John Doe, was seated in the front passenger seat.
While driving under the influence of alcohol, Sitagata crashed into a traffic light pole at the intersection of Irvine Center Drive and Culver Drive in Irvine.
Pesa Sitagata died at the scene due to injuries sustained in the crash.
John Doe sustained serious injuries including fractures to both legs, broken ribs, and a lacerated spleen and liver.
A witness stopped at the crash site to see if anyone needed help and contacted Sitagata, who stood outside of the car and failed to call 911 to help his injured family members.
When the witness offered to call 911, the defendant told him not to, then ran away from the scene on foot.
The Irvine Police Department (IPD), who investigated this case, responded to the scene and arrested Sitagata a short distance away.
Based on this conviction and his subsequent court-ordered participation in an alcohol awareness course, the defendant had knowledge that driving under the influence of alcohol could result in the death of himself or others.
Prosecutor: Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky, Homicide Unit