The U.S. Navy sailor accused of driving drunk and crashing into a crowded park beneath the Coronado Bridge appeared in court Wednesday, in his first court appearance since his arrest.
Richard Anthony Sepolio, 24, an active duty service member stationed in Coronado, will remain in custody on $2 million bail. A San Diego judge rejected the defense request to release Sepolio into the care of the U.S. military.
Sepolio's truck plunged 60 feet off the Coronado Bridge ramp on Saturday, October 15. The vehicle landed onto a crowd below, killing four people.
He has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to the fatal crash, including four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury or death, and four different great bodily injury allegations.
Attorney Paul Pfingst argued his client was not drunk and was not texting. Sepolio should be released from jail and confined to base where he could undergo surgery for injuries to his back, his ribs and his hands, the attorney told the court.
“This young man is serving his country and he has no criminal record and the breath tests that were taken shortly after the accident show that his blood alcohol level was below the legal limit,” Pfingst said explaining how breath tests conducted by the CHP showed his client had a blood alcohol level under the legal limit.
In court, the prosecutor said the defendant’s injuries prevented an accurate breathalyzer test and that blood drawn later provided a more accurate measurement.
An hour after the initial tests, a blood sample was drawn and Sepolio's BAC was measured at .08.
The idea that his client was texting at the time of the crash is not accurate, Pfingst said.
"After he hit the ground and was trapped in the vehicle, he took out his cell phone to call for help," Pfingst said. "The evidence will show when they check the time on his cell phone, the cell phone times match up to after the accident occurred."
The crash was a tragic accident, Pfingst said, caused when Sepolio “was driving at approximately 60 miles an hour when he was forced off the bridge by another vehicle.”
However, the district attorney’s office maintains there is no evidence the defendant was forced off the bridge.
Judge Frederick Maguire rejected the defense request and ordered Sepolio to be held on $2 million bail.
Sepolio is facing a maximum sentence of 23 years and eight months in prison.
The four people killed in the collision were identified as Cruz Elias Contreras, 52, AnnaMarie Contreras, 50, Andre Christopher Banks, 49, and Francine Denise Jimenez, 46.
They were attending the La Raza Ride motorcycle festival being held at Chicano Park.