An emotional day in court Friday ended with a judge ordering 48 hours behind bars for a woman who pleaded guilty to running a red light, killing a nanny and seriously injuring a toddler in a crash in Santaluz.
Christine Padilla, an attorney from Del Sur, pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, running a red light and failure to yield at a crosswalk in connection with a fatal accident that happened on Feb. 1.
Padilla, who had given birth just one day earlier, was driving an SUV and ran a red light at the intersection of Camino Del Sur and Via Verrazzano.
Padilla’s car struck and killed nanny Monserratt Mendez, 41, who was pushing a stroller across the crosswalk carrying 14-month-old toddler Bryan Fomon. The child was severely injured in the collision and spent time in intensive care, but he survived.
A police report from the fatal collision later revealed that Padilla admitted she was sleep-deprived on the day of the accident.
The report said Padilla told officers she was driving home from her sister’s house and knew she ran a red light, but by the time she realized what she had done, it was too late for Mendez and the toddler.
Padilla told officers: “I’m sorry – I’m sleep-deprived and I just looked up and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s red.’ And then oh my God, and she was right there.”
On Friday – more than four months after the tragic crash – Padilla appeared in a standing-room-only courtroom for sentencing.
Emotions were palpable inside the courtroom, as Mendez’s family members and the injured toddler’s mother begged a judge to give Padilla jail time. Many of those in attendance were crying.
Mendez’s16-year-old daughter, Amy Barragan, spoke of the constant pain she and her 14-year-old brother have endured with the sudden loss of their mother.
“All I really want is justice. My mom and I were best friends; she is the one I told everything to. I just can’t explain the pain we are going through right now,” said Barragan.
“Nothing I say will bring my mother back. She was my mother, teacher, best friend,” the teen continued. “She didn’t even get to see [my brother and I] graduate from high school, and that was her dream.”
Rosa Mendez, the victim’s sister, spoke through a translator.
“All the people that know her knew she was an excellent woman and mother. Now we are left with this horrible pain. Sometimes I can’t even breathe,” she said.
The victim’s brother, Heliodoro Mendez, spoke up as well, demanding Padilla be sentenced appropriately for his sister’s death. He said he can’t understand how Padilla could get no more than one year in jail, and said he thinks Padilla is buying her way out of a harsher sentence.
“I want justice to be done. With all the money [Padilla] has, she won’t be able to buy God or Divine justice,” he said.
Allie Fomon, the injured toddler’s mother, also gave an emotional argument asking that Padilla get jail time.
“She took things away from us that we will never get back,” said Fomon, adding that Padilla has shown “no true remorse” and has only been concerned “about herself and her agony” since the deadly accident.
“Your concern for yourself has trumped all else,” said Fomon, referring to Padilla.
A probation officer recommended Padilla be sentenced to house arrest and probation, but no jail time.
Judge Charles Gill, who said he read every letter submitted by both sides -- including more than 60 letters from Padilla's family and friends -- said he was at first inclined to sentence Padilla to the punishment recommended by the probation department.
After listening to statements from Mendez’s family and the toddler’s family, Judge Gill decided to sentence Padilla to 48 hours in jail after she serves 180 days under electronic surveillance and house arrest. She must also remain on probation for three years.
Judge Gill said Padilla’s willingness to plead guilty played a big factor in her sentencing Friday. He said he believes Padilla is genuinely remorseful.
Padilla also got her chance to address the court and Mendez’s family, saying she’s “deeply sorry” for their loss and hopes God will help them heal.
“I have no words to express the depth of my remorse. If I could lessen your pain, I would,” said Padilla.
Padilla said she can’t explain why she ran the red light, and said she was not on drugs, alcohol or any medication on that day. Hospital records show she was not given any medications while in the hospital before the accident.
“I remain horrified by the consequences of what I have done," Padilla added.
Padilla said she had reached out to the Mendez and Fomon families by writing them a letter, but claimed those letters were rejected.
Fomon called the letter she received from Padilla "incredibly self-serving and transparent" and said Padilla failed to "take ownership" for her actions on the day of the crash in the note.
"I received your letter and realized that your main concern has been and continued to be you," said Fomon. "I don't doubt you are sorry this all happened; I just question where the victims fall in your totem pole of remorse."
Padilla’s attorney, Tom Warwick, said his client has admitted liability and wanted to settle the case.
“We tried to resolve this case before it was arraigned. This is a caring, loving woman who didn’t see something in time. The young woman is devastated,” said Warwick.
Padilla is scheduled to appear in court again on Sep. 27 for a restitution hearing.
Mendez's family has also filed a civil suit against Padilla arguing she was reckless and negligent on the day of the accident.