Latest News: Updated February 27
- Sentencing hearing occured on 1/19/2007
Here is the text of the article in the mercury news
Drunken driver gets seven years
DRIVING PRIVILEGES ALSO REVOKED FOR LIFE
By Rodney Foo
A San Jose woman who killed a motorist as she drove drunk in the wrong direction
on Highway 85 in Sunnyvale was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Nicole J. Rodriguez, 29, had pleaded no contest to felony vehicular manslaughter
and drunken driving in October. She was accused of getting on Highway 85 at
Winchester Boulevard in Los Gatos on March 19, 2006, and traveling north in
southbound lanes. She hit a car driven by Juan Pena Jr., a 37-year-old Cupertino
man, killing him.
Judge Jean High Wetenkamp handed down the sentence at a Friday hearing.
Under terms of the sentence, Rodriguez will serve at least five years and four
months before being eligible for release. Rodriguez, a former nanny who entered
her plea before the preliminary hearing, faced a maximum sentence of 12 years
and four months.
Wetenkamp also revoked Rodriguez's driving privileges for life.
In addition, the judge ordered Rodriguez to pay $15,090 to Pena's parents, who
reside in Texas, to cover burial and other expenses.
Rodriguez must also pay restitution to Raquel Vargas, a passenger in her
vehicle, who was injured, and also to two other motorists whose cars were
damaged, said Deputy District Attorney Vicki L. Gemetti.
Besides his parents, Pena is survived by two brothers and five sisters.
One sister, Lydia Pena-Sherrill, said Rodriguez should have received the maximum
sentence for the fatal accident to send a public message that drinking and
driving won't be tolerated.
Rodriguez's blood-alcohol content on the night of the accident was 0.20 percent,
almost three times 0.08 percent, the legal limit in California.
``I think people are desensitized reading and hearing about drunken driving, and
yet people still take a chance every night driving under the influence,''
Pena-Sherrill said Monday. ``I will not say Nicole got a slap on the wrist, but
I think seven years and eight months is just ridiculous.''
Wetenkamp's decision was a difficult one, Gemetti said.
``She tried very hard to balance the lack of criminal history and the severity
of the offense,'' Gemetti said.
Rodriguez's attorney, Harry Robertson, could not be reached for comment Monday.
The accident's origins began in the early hours of March 19. Rodriguez had
visited a couple of bars in San Jose when she hopped into her Chevrolet
Silverado, along with Vargas, Gemetti said. Then Rodriguez started her truck
and eventually entered the freeway's southbound lanes heading the wrong way.
A driver on the other side of Highway 85, in the northbound lanes, saw the
errant truck and honked his car horn and flashed his headlights hoping to get
her attention to no avail, Gemetti said.
In Sunnyvale, the truck slammed into Pena's Mazda MX-3 virtually head on. The
truck's momentum propelled it over the hood of the low-slung sports car.
Vargas told authorities she did not recall the accident, Gemetti said.
Thank you for all your support,
The Pena Family
- A message in memory of Juan was displayed on the scoreboard at the opening day Giant's game
- New article in the San Jose Mercury News:
Wrong-way driver killed motorist who feared drunk drivers
Published Sunday, April 2, 2006
- Visitation was held on Thursday, March 23 from 12 noon – 9 pm; the Vigil and Rosary also on March 23, at 7 pm at the Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary, 96 El Camino Real West, Mountain View [View Map]. Funeral Mass was held on Friday, March 24 at 9:30 am, at Saint Joseph Church in Mountain View [View Map]. Internment was held at the Gate of Heaven in Los Altos, with a reception at St. Joseph Church immediately following. Thank you to all who attended.
- Juan's obituary has been posted in the San Jose Mercury News. It can be viewed online here.
- In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in his memory to the Saint Francis High School memorial endowment fund in Juan's name. Click here for more information, or here to download an Endowment Donation Card.