No deal in deadly DUI involving Fresno's Pardini family

January 4, 2013 12:28:37 AM PST
A prominent Fresno family who lost their son in a DUI crash is now saying the driver shouldn't go to jail or prison. And a surviving victim is saying the same thing, but Brian Cappelluti still can't get a deal in court.

Cappelluti actually had a deal on the table Thursday afternoon, but it exposed him to a possible six-year prison sentence. He rejected it -- gambling he'll get no incarceration when he could get as much as 12 years.

It was a crash so powerful, a traffic light pole crumbled, a young man died, and a young woman was disfigured. Two years later, Cappelluti -- the man accused of causing all the destruction -- is hoping for a soft landing.

"This is a tragedy and we're trying to make the best of it," said Cappelluti's attorney, Rick Berman.

Police say Cappelluti had a blood alcohol content of .21 when he hit the light pole, killing J.W. Pardini and injuring two friends, Marion Walker most seriously. But Walker wrote a letter asking a judge to limit any punishment against Cappelluti. And Pardini's family -- which owns Fresno's Grand Occasions Catering and Banquet Hall -- is also in Cappelluti's court. They're backing his attorney's push for punishment for Cappelluti, but no jail time.

"Certainly the guilt of killing his friend and injuring another friend is strong and on his mind, but that's not sufficient punishment and we're not saying it is," said Rick Berman.

Berman offered to have his client plead guilty to all the charges against him, but he wanted a judge to indicate she'd keep Cappelluti out of jail. The judge refused to make that promise. She'd only guarantee a sentence of six years or less, saying Cappelluti would be looking at 12 years if he hadn't killed friends with families who have forgiven him.

"If he was not related to these victims at all, total strangers, I am very sure that the position of these families would have been very different," said Judge Houry Sanderson, who was the third judge to hear the case Thursday.

Prosecutors say they have taken into account what Walker and the Pardinis have said, but they say justice should be blind -- applying equally to anyone who makes the same deadly decision as Cappelluti.

Cappelluti is due back in court next month with no more deals on the table.