Deadly DUI sentence defies wishes of victim, victim's family

FRESNO, Calif.

The crash caused major physical destruction, evidenced by this downed traffic light. Brian Cappelluti knocked it down when he crashed a friend's car while driving drunk a little over two years ago. His close friend, JW Pardini, died in the crash. Cappelluti was in a wheelchair himself when he made his first court appearance three weeks later, in March 2011. On Thursday, he faced a prosecutor who wanted him to serve prison time for the deadly decision.

"I think the message that should be sent is that any person cannot be drinking and driving," said Dennis Verzosa. "You just can't do it."

But despite the emotional destruction the crash also caused, Cappelluti also had strong support from his victims. Pardini's family owns Fresno's Grand Occasions Catering and Banquet Hall. They wrote a letter to the judge saying, "JW is gone forever. Brian has to live with the thought of this accident every day for the rest of his life. We suggest that probation for Brian is the proper corrective action."

And Marion Walker, who spent weeks in the hospital after the crash with severe head injuries, also asked the judge to keep him out of prison. Cappelluti cried as Walker called him her biggest supporter throughout her recovery, and she believes they're both already serving a life sentence.

"All of us will pay for this accident for the rest of our lives," she said. "We all understood what could happen and it did. I ask you not to take away my surviving support."

Judge Alan Simpson wouldn't allow our cameras in court, and called it one of the most difficult decisions of his career. In the end, he sent Cappelluti to jail for a one-year sentence -- more than the victims wanted, but four years less than prosecutors asked for.

"I think the outcome was fair and just and everybody can feel that justice was done," said defense attorney Rick Berman, who represented Cappelluti.

Cappelluti plans to talk to people about the dangers of drinking and driving after he serves his sentence. He could be released from jail within eight months.

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