A Long Beach Fire Department captain was sentenced to a year in county jail and five years of probation Tuesday for a drunken hit-and-run crash in April that severely injured a bicyclist in Seal Beach.
John David Hines, 39, was also ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution to victim Jeffrey Gordon, who told the court he may never fully recover and was upset that Hines "may suffer little or no consequences for his actions."
The prosecutor had argued for a longer sentence to be served in a state prison.
“Based on the crime, we felt that a state prison sentence would have been appropriate, but we respect the decision of the judge and believe the judge made a fair ruling,” said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
On Sept. 6, Hines, a Huntington Beach resident, pleaded guilty to a court offer of one felony count each of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol of 0.08 percent or more causing injury, hit and run with injury, and sentencing enhancements and allegations for causing great bodily injury and having a blood alcohol level over .20 percent.
As part of the deal, he served 86 days in state prison for a diagnostic evaluation. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to four years and four months in state prison, but the sentence was suspended on the condition that he serve a year in jail and complete five years of probation.
Prosecutors argued that Hines should be sent to state prison because of the severity of the crime and because he worked as a paramedic and knew from responding to similar scenes about the dangers of drinking and driving. He should be held to a higher standard, prosecutors said.
On the morning of April 1, Hines got drunk at a Schooner or Later in Long Beach. Around 1:20 p.m., he drove erratically along Westminster Avenue in Seal Beach in his Chevrolet pickup truck.
While driving, Hines lost control of his vehicle and suddenly swerved into the bike lane and dirt shoulder. Without slowing or hitting his brakes, he crashed into 47-year-old bicyclist Gordon. The victim was thrown from his bike over 70 feet and landed on the shoulder of the road. Hines failed to slow or hit his brakes after crashing into the victim and fled the scene.
Two separate drivers who witnessed the crash followed the defendant and called 911. Hines drove to his Huntington Beach home, where he was contacted by the Huntington Beach and Seal Beach Police Departments.
When contacted by police, Hines displayed objective signs of intoxication including emitting a strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot and watery eyes, unsteady balance, and a strong odor of urine from his clothing. Two hours after the crash, Hines had a blood alcohol level of 0.24 percent.
The force of the impact from the crash caused by Hines left a blood splatter on the defendant’s vehicle and resulted in major front-end fender and hood damage.
Gordon was transported to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center to be treated for head trauma, severe lacerations and bruising to his head and body, internal injuries, and spinal and vertebrae injuries. Gordon remained in the hospital for two weeks and continues to suffer pain as a result of his injuries.
Gordon prepared a written victim impact statement to be considered at sentencing and explained in part, “I am a very active person who enjoys being outdoors with my family. I also have a very mentally and physically demanding job that I love. All of that was taken from me in just seconds.
“As a result of the impact, I was seriously injured, receiving an 18-centimeter head laceration, cranial bleeding, three broken vertebrae, a bruised kidney and multiple cuts, scrapes, and contusions over a large area of my body. Medical expenses are piling up from the long hospital stay and treatment from so many specialists… so far reaching nearly $65,000. The doctors are not yet sure when or if I will recover enough to return to full duty at work or to the quality of life that I had before.
“I have found myself becoming more and more upset by the possibility that the negligence of another person may have lasting effects on me, but the person who is responsible may suffer little or no consequences for his actions.”
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