Soza sees harsher sentence for DUI, vehicular manslaughter

April 13, 2013 12:28:39 AM PDT
Stephanie Soza of Selma was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence last summer, but the judge decided not to sentence, Friday.

Soza was in a green jumpsuit inside the Fresno County courtroom with her attorney standing beside her, and her head hung low for most of the hearing.

Defense attorney Brian Andritch said, "The judge wasn't willing to honor the original plea deal."

Prosecutor Timothy O'Connor said "She was offered an indicated sentence by the judge of 3 years 4 months, and the reason she was allowed to withdraw her plea was because she had entered the plea with that understanding. Once that changed, once the judge decided that was not the acceptable sentence, she then had the right to withdraw her plea."

Soza decided not to withdraw her original "no contest" plea on vehicular manslaughter charges after the judge wanted a harsher sentence.

The Selma woman accepted responsibility for the deaths of her two friends in a drunk driving accident from last summer. The California Highway Patrol officers say Soza drove her car off Highway 180 and down a cliff near Kings Canyon National Park. Soza was driving drunk with three passengers including 19-year-old Zack Bardone and 21-year-old Josh Paramore, who were both killed.

"We have asked for 6 years, 4 months, and based on what she was charged with, we feel that's an appropriate sentence," O'Connor said.

Soza's sentencing was postponed to accommodate the victims' families.

"Technically she could have been sentenced today, but it's always been a priority for the victim's families, they want to be present in the courtroom, they want to address Stephanie. They want her to try to understand the magnitude of their loss," O'Connor said.

Soza's attorney says his client is deeply remorseful for the tragic outcome.

"Two of her friends were killed and one of them was injured and she was trying to do a good thing taking her friend to the hospital. I think she just wants to get this behind her, and wants to be able to move forward. She wants the victims' families to be able to do the same," Andritch said.

Soza will be back in court on May 3, 2013 where she'll be sentenced to 6 years, 4 months.


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