The Sonoma County District Attorney’s office this morning charged a Rohnert Park man with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in connection with a rear-end collision that killed two women in March.
Nicholas Lee Tognozzi, 30, did not enter a plea to the charges that also allege he caused great bodily injury to the surviving husband of one of the women. His next court date is June 4.
Tognozzi’s attorney Kevin McConnell said the complaint does not allege his client was under the influence of a drug or alcohol. There also are no phone records of Tognozzi texting or talking on a cellphone at the tine of the crash, according to Matthew Freeman, who also represents Tognozzi.
The California Highway Patrol said it’s believed Tognozzi was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.
“It appears the theory of gross negligence is that he looked down at his phone moments before the crash,” McConnell said.
Tognozzi was driving a 2005 GMC Sierra at 55-65 mph east on state Highway 12 around 5:20 p.m. on March 15 when he looked up after checking his phone and noticed traffic ahead of him had stopped, CHP Officer Keri Post said at the time of the collision.
The truck struck the rear of a 2001 Toyota Camry about 850 feet west of Farmers Lane, pushing the Camry into the rear of a 2005 Suzuki Aerio. All the vehicles were in the same lane, Post said.
Tognozzi told the CHP he could not stop in time, Post said.
The back seat passengers, Susan Hufford, 53, and Sharon Hufford, 74, both of Santa Rosa, died instantly, the CHP said. The front seat passenger, Donald Hufford, 74, of Santa Rosa, suffered major injuries and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
The Toyota driver, Jay Randolph Hufford, 54, of Santa Rosa suffered a head laceration. Susan Hufford, a music teacher in the Mark West Union School District, was Jay Hufford’s wife, Sharon Hufford was his mother and Donald Hufford is his father.
Tognozzi was arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of a drug causing death. He was released from the Sonoma County jail after posting $100,000 bail.
McConnell said Tognozzi faces six years in prison on the vehicular manslaughter charges, which could be misdemeanors or felonies, and five years for causing great bodily injury to Donald Hufford.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office did not return a call for additional comment on the complaint this morning.
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