SAN DIEGO DUI DEFENDANT WHO SEVERED MAN'S ARM GETS FIVE YEARS IN STATE PRISON
October 4, 2007
VISTA – A DUI motorist responsible for a crash that severed the arm of the groom for the champion racehorse Lava Man was sentenced Thursday to five years in state prison. Heriberto Castillo, 24, pleaded guilty last month to driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury and great bodily injury to Noe Garcia.
The crash happened on July 23 on Interstate 5 in Del Mar. Castillo was arrested by a Carlsbad police officer who had been warned to watch for a red Camaro with front-end damage.
“The injury (the defendant) caused me – and my family – is great,” Garcia told Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman via a Spanish interpreter. “Because of that I lost my job. I lost my arm. I am not well physically or psychologically. My children and my wife are greatly affected by this.”
Prosecutor Rick Watson told the judge “this was one of the worst cases” of drunk driving that one could imagine.
The defendant had a blood-alcohol level of .19 percent when tested after his arrest, Watson said. The state limit is .08 percent.
Garcia, 39, was in need of a prosthetic arm that would cost $65,000, far more money than he had available, according to the prosecutor.
The victim cared for Lava Man for three years before the crash. During that time, the thoroughbred twice won the Santa Anita Handicap and last year was first in the Pacific Classic – the premiere race at the Del Mar Racetrack.
The horse fell to sixth in this year's edition of the local race, which took place a couple weeks after Garcia was injured.
Castillo, who rented a room in Oceanside and worked in a cafe in Vista, had been in this country illegally for about five years, according to a report filed by the county Probation Department.
The defendant also had a baggie of marijuana with him and was driving without a license, the report stated.
Also speaking through a Spanish interpreter, the defendant asked for forgiveness from Garcia and his family.
“I understand that he has suffered tremendous pain,” said Castillo, who had no prior criminal record.