A Millbrae man was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday for a 2009 drunk-driving crash on Devil's Slide that killed an Italian woman and injured three others.
The defendant, 53-year-old Thomas Randall, pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter in April in exchange for prosecutors dropping other criminal charges that could have resulted in a 17-year prison term.
Witnesses reported Randall was driving around 75 mph northbound on the treacherous and winding Devil's Slide section of Highway 1. Randall was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road, and he turned sharply to get back on the right side, striking a Ford Escape with four passengers heading in the same direction.
One of the victims, Paola Casara, a 32-year-old woman visiting from Italy, was thrown out of the car as a result of the crash. She died of her injuries. The other three passengers suffered minor injuries, including a broken wrist and a head laceration.
Prosecutors say Randall has a history of alcohol abuse and that he was previously cited for alcohol-related domestic violence.
On the day of the accident, authorities say Randall had been drinking since he woke up, starting in the morning by having beers with breakfast and then driving to Pescadero for more beer and lunch. He purchased four more beers before leaving the South Coast, according to authorities. He also had a partially consumed bottle of vodka in his car.
Randall said he started driving home to Millbrae, but he apparently got lost, driving north on Highway 1 through the Midcoast.
California Highway Patrol officers responding to the accident reported that Randall had a .27 blood-alcohol content - more than three times the legal limit. The officer's report stated that Randall was confused about where he was. He was arrested at the scene.
During the sentencing on Tuesday, Randall's defense attorney asked the court to consider a lighter prison term of four years. But prosecutors and one of the injured victims riding with Casara urged the judge to give the maximum seven-year sentence.
Prosecutors later confided they felt the maximum sentence was mild compared to the damage caused in the accident.
"This type of crime should have had a heavier punishment," said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. "But for what occurred, the judge had to work in the sentencing rules."
Prosecutors were originally seeking to charge Randall with second-degree murder, but they concluded that charge would be a stretch under the law. Proving murder in the drunk-driving accident required showing "conscious disregard" for others' lives, Wagstaffe said.
Prosecutors were able to make the case for murder about five years ago in another fatal crash on the Coastside in which a driver under the influence of methamphetamine hit and killed a college student riding a motorcycle near Tunitas Creek Road. In that criminal case, the driver received a murder sentence of 38 years in prison because he had already been through numerous rehabilitation programs for three previous drug felonies.
But Randall's history of substance abuse was not as egregious, Wagstaffe explained.
In addition to the prison term, Randall must pay restitution to Casara's family and the other victims in the crash. He was given credit for 415 days in prison for participating during the court proceedings in a drug treatment program in San Francisco.