A man convicted of intentionally running down and killing a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2007 was sentenced today to 14 years in state prison. Hamilton Diaz, 30, struck Randal Gross, 24, with his red Toyota Tercel near the intersection of 16th and Valencia streets early the morning of March 20, 2007. Diaz and Gross had gotten into an argument, after which Gross allegedly smashed Diaz’s windshield and walked away north on Valencia Street, prosecutors said. Diaz drove onto the sidewalk and allegedly struck Gross from behind with his car, then sped off. Gross died at the scene, and Diaz was arrested a short distance away after ditching his car and fleeing on foot.
He was charged with murder and hit-and-run, but on June 23, a San Francisco Superior Court jury convicted him of a lesser charge, voluntary manslaughter, with a special allegation of the use of a deadly weapon: the car used to fatally strike Gross. Gross’ mother Janet Miley spoke at Diaz’s sentencing hearing today, telling him, “You ended my family’s lineage,” because her only other child has cerebral palsy and other health issues. Miley criticized the justice system for not deporting Diaz, an undocumented immigrant, after he was released from custody following a prior conviction on a 2006 arson charge. The incident in the Mission District happened seven months after his release. Miley and other family friends who spoke at the hearing asked for Diaz to be sentenced to the maximum prison term allowable.
His defense attorney, Mark Goldrosen, argued for a shorter term of eight years, saying Diaz had been provoked into an “explosion of violence that happened in an instant.” After arguments from both sides, Judge Jerome Benson decided on the longer term of 14 years, which included 11 years for the manslaughter charge, one for use of the deadly weapon, one for hit-and-run, and one for a prior conviction on a 2006 arson charge. By hitting Gross from behind, Diaz’s actions “almost can be considered to be an ambush,” Benson said. “There was no time for escape from that sidewalk.”
Diaz will likely get out in less than a decade, though, because he has more than four years’ credit for time already served in jail since his arrest. Outside of court, Miley said she was “definitely satisfied” with the judge’s sentence after being disappointed that the jury had only found Diaz guilty of the lesser manslaughter charge. Miley, who now lives in Lake County, worked in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a court reporter at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, and experienced her first murder trial in the same courtroom where Diaz’s trial was heard. “Never did I think I was going to listen to my son’s murder trial here,” she said. The case will return to court on Aug. 19 for a victim restitution hearing.
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