SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who drove drunk and flipped his car on a freeway onramp, killing a 21-year-old female passenger, was sentenced today to four years and four months in state prison.
Long Xu pleaded guilty to DUI and admitted an allegation that he caused great bodily injury to the victim, Jiani Cheng.
Defense attorney Victor Orsatti argued for probation for his 21-year-old client.
Orsatti said Xu was not a drinker and had five or six small glasses of beer at a karaoke bar before the crash. A friend said Xu even waited awhile at the bar before getting behind the wheel, according to the attorney.
"This is a tragic situation," Orsatti said. "He (Xu) has led a tremendous life."
He told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide that Xu's blood-alcohol level was measured at .10 percent after the 2:09 a.m. accident last March 14, but came back at .08 percent when retested.
Xu's mother said her divorce two years ago greatly affected her son.
"He took a precious life. I feel very sorry about it," said Jing Ling Wu.
Leaders from a Los Angeles-area Mandarin Baptist church where Xu was a member said the defendant wanted to be a nurse and moved to San Diego when his parents split up.
Another passenger in the car, Guozhen Yu, said Xu was a good student and helped him learn English.
Yu said that before the crash, Xu's car appeared to have a mechanical problem and shook like an "earthquake." He said has forgiven the defendant for the crash.
The victim's uncle, Jean Pierre Pham, said Cheng came to the United States from China and moved in with his family in January. He said his niece had wanted to learn English and dreamed of opening a dance school and appearing on "Dancing With The Stars."
Pham said Cheng's parents -- who live in China -- just asked that justice be carried out.
"He (Xu) did a terrible mistake," Pham said. "A life is lost."
Pham's wife, Jinhong Chen, said her sister hasn't told their mother of Cheng's death for fear what it might do to the elderly woman. Chen said the victim was her sister's only child.
"She was such a sweet girl and she had her dream," a tearful Chen told the judge.
Deputy District Attorney Derek Grilz said the accident was "avoidable" had the defendant not chosen to drink and drive.
"Her (the victim's) parents sent her away to learn English, and she's not going home," the prosecutor said.
An eyewitness said Xu's car was going about 60 mph when it flipped on the northbound 11th Avenue onramp to northbound Interstate 5, Eyherabide said.
The judge said Xu had done good things in his life but was traveling way too fast and was under the influence when he crashed, trapping the victim in the vehicle. She died at the scene. The judge said nothing was found to be mechanically wrong with the defendant's car.
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