Accused drunk driver in Pardini death in wheelchair in court

FRESNO, Calif.

And Brian Cappelluti is facing the charges with some support from the victim's family. It's been almost three weeks since J.W. Pardini died in the one-car crash, and one of the other victims is still hospitalized.

Friends and family gather every night at Community Regional Medical Center for prayer vigils in honor of Marion Walker -- who is still in critical condition.

Cappelluti is also accused of causing her injuries, but he pleaded "not guilty" to all the charges Friday morning. Cappelluti sat in a wheelchair Friday as he faced a judge for the first time.

The 23-year-old is accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed Pardini, who was one of his close friends.

Investigators say his blood alcohol content was .21 at the time of the crash -- more than twice the legal limit for drivers of .08. But Cappelluti pleaded "not guilty" to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

The case against him also includes two charges of causing injury while driving drunk because two more passengers were hurt. And it could get even more complicated.

"The government's just given me another packet and they're not done with their investigation," said Cappelluti's defense attorney Rick Berman.

Cappelluti paid almost $70,000 to stay out of jail, but he doesn't have complete freedom.

Judge D. Tyler Tharpe ordered that he can't drink, he can't drive, he has to live with his parents with a curfew of 10 p.m., and he has to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"Do you understand and agree to all those conditions?" the judge asked.

"Yes your honor," said Cappelluti.

The defendant can thank the victim's family for the small amount of freedom he does enjoy.

J.W. Pardini's father owns Fresno's Grand Occasions Catering and Banquet Hall.

A family lawyer told the judge the Pardinis trust Cappelluti's judgment and they wouldn't object to a reduction in his bail.

The deadly crash also seriously injured the 22-year-old Walker, whose car Cappelluti was allegedly driving when the 2002 Saturn hit a pole on Herndon and Valentine.

Walker's condition has stabilized, but she still has serious head injuries.

Her family and friends stand outside CRMC every night at 6:30 p.m., hoping the power of prayer helps her heal. And as Cappelluti fights the charges against him, he too is trying to heal.

"He's in a wheelchair," said his attorney, Berman. "He's still recovering from surgeries. He can't stand on his feet as of yet, and he still has medical devices attached to him."

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