A prosecutor and a defense attorney differed today about the appropriate sentence for a University of California at Berkeley graduate student who killed his girlfriend and her 6-year-old son almost exactly a year ago. Prosecutor Luis Marin said he will seek a 12-year state prison term, the maximum possible, for 25-year-old Jose Lumbreras, who pleaded no contest on Monday to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for crashing a Cadillac into a roundabout and a tree near Allston Way and California Street in Berkeley at about 1:10 a.m. on May 18, 2012, fatally wounding 22-year-old Milanca Alicia Lopez and her son Xavier Chevez.
But Lumbreras’ attorney, Paul Wolf, said he will argue for something less than the maximum for Lumbreras when he is sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on June 11. Wolf said possibilities would include placing Lumbreras, who has been in custody for the past year, on 10 years probation or sentencing him to a lesser term of between 4 and 8 years. He said he thinks something less than the maximum would be appropriate for Lumbreras because “there are more mitigating than aggravating circumstances in this case,” such as the fact that Lumbreras, who was in an ethnic studies doctoral program at UC Berkeley, doesn’t have a prior criminal record.
Lopez, who was from the Los Angeles area and had graduated with a degree in social welfare the week before the accident, was pronounced dead at the scene. Xavier initially survived but became comatose, then suffered paralysis and died a week after the accident. Marin called the accident “horrific” and said evidence in the case indicates that Lumbreras was traveling at 65 mph and had run a stop sign, and that his blood-alcohol content was at least twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Marin said Lumbreras pleaded to the exact charges that were filed against him and that he didn’t offer Lumbreras a plea bargain because the 12-year maximum prison term he faces is “low” considering the fact that he killed two people.
Lumbreras also suffered serious injuries in the accident and spent three weeks in a hospital, Marin said. Lopez’s family members, who had traveled to Oakland from Los Angeles, cried in a courthouse hallway after Lumbreras entered his no-contest plea. Marin said the plea hearing was emotional for them, especially because it was the day after Mother’s Day, and this Saturday will be the one-year anniversary of the fatal crash. “It was a tragic loss for the family because they lost their daughter and their grandchild,” Marin said. Wolf said Lumbreras loved both Lopez and Xaiver, who was helping to raise, and already has suffered more than any punishment that a court would impose.
Wolf said Lumbreras “doesn’t deny or shirk responsibility for what he did that night but he doesn’t remember what happened.” The defense attorney said Lumbreras and Lopez were both drinking heavily that night to celebrate the fact that Lumbreras had just completed his master’s program on his way to getting his doctorate and Lopez had received her undergraduate degree. Wolf said Lumbreras and Lopez weren’t wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident and Xavier wasn’t in a booster seat that might have saved his life.
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