A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge today sentenced a San Jose man to 41 years in prison for using his SUV to ram and kill two pedestrians and injure one in a drunken rage outside a park in 2008. Judge Diana Northway gave Armando Ochoa 15 years to life in prison for each of his two convictions for second-degree murder and 11 years for assault with great bodily harm, Deputy District Attorney Dan Fehderau said. Ochoa showed some emotion and told Northway before she handed down the sentence that he felt remorseful about his actions but added that he still believed that the 2008 incident was an accident, Fehderau said. A jury convicted Ochoa, 50, in January on the murder and felony assault charges for his involvement in events the morning of Sept. 14, 2008, at a public park in East San Jose following a night of heavy drinking.
Witnesses testified that an irate Ochoa yelled at some soccer players, got into a fistfight, then drove his Chevrolet Suburban down a street, veered onto a sidewalk and deliberately hit three male pedestrians. The victims, Aproniano Siruno, 71, Rodolfo Escurial, 68, and Esteban Casiano, 73, were walking together at about 8:45 a.m. next to Hillview Park at the corner of Berona and Alfred ways. Siruno was killed immediately and Escurial died later in a hospital. Casiano, whose ribs were broken, recovered from his injuries. Fehderau said during the trial that after the deadly collision Ochoa drove the damaged SUV away, stopped to take a cab home and tried to flee when he saw police officers at his home in San Jose. A test revealed Ochoa had a blood-alcohol level three times above the legal limit, Fehderau said. Ochoa’s attorney, Ingo Brauer, used an expert witness to argue that Ochoa suffered from a brain cyst that caused him to lose consciousness during the killings.
Fehderau produced an expert who refuted Brauer’s claim about the cyst and said it would not have affected his behavior. The prosecutor also introduced into evidence Ochoa’s record of multiple convictions of drunken driving, hit and run and speeding. Under state sentencing laws, Ochoa must serve at least 30 years of his sentences for second-degree murder and 85 percent of the 11 years he got for the felony assault, Fehderau said. The jury convicted Ochoa of the second-degree murder and assault but deadlocked on a count of attempted murder and the district attorney’s office decided to drop that charge, Fehderau said.