Jurors reached a split verdict Monday in the case of a South Bay man accused in the crash that killed his 4-year-old son.
Angelo Fabiani, 41, was found guilty of hit-and-run and not guilty of felony child abuse. The jury made its decision less than three hours after starting delibarations.
Two jurors told NBC 7 the not-guilty verdict was the easy part because they did not think Fabiani willfully endangered his son while trying to rescue him, acting on instinct.
In closing arguments Monday morning, the prosecution said Angelo Fabiani was negligent and reckless when he left the scene of single-car accident that gravely injured his son, Valentino, on June 2, 2013.
Fabiani cut his wounded son from his car seat after Fabiani’s Nissan Titan hit a palm tree on the side of Interstate 5, near Old Town. But after freeing Valentino from the wreckage, the boy tumbled 10 feet to the concrete below.
His father walked away from the scene before paramedics could transport the child to Children’s Hospital. Valentino died of head injuries several days later.
Defense attorney Allen Bloom told jurors his client was actually a hero, who risked his life to unstrap his son from his car seat moments after the accident.
“He takes the heroic effort of going after his son and disregarding his personal safety. Jumping to [the mangled pick-up truck] that even the officers said to be careful of. It’s tilted. It might fall at any time. Gasoline is in the air," Bloom described.
Fabiani loved his son “passionately and intensely,” Bloom said, and was not in his right mind when he left the crash scene and walked 19 miles to his home in Imperial Beach.
But the prosecutor said Fabiani did nothing to help his dying child or assist investigators, even though he must have known police were looking for him.
“He gets on a dating website, he gets on Facebook,” said prosecutor Marisa Di Tillo. “You know where he doesn’t go? He doesn’t go to the news stations. He doesn’t go to the website for Children’s Hospital. He doesn’t go to the website for the medical examiner.”
Valentino's mother previously testified that Fabiani never came to the hospital in the eight days his son was there before he died. She also never got a call or text from the father, she said.
The prosecutor told jurors that Fabiani also talked about fleeing the U.S. for Mexico. She said fear of an arrest and prison time may have motivated Fabiani because he was on probation for a DUI, when the crash happened. There is no evidence that alcohol or drugs played any role in this accident.
“He didn’t make one inquiry as to how his child was doing,” Di Tillo told the jury. “He only thought about himself. He thought about getting out of San Diego and protecting himself.”
The defense attorney told the jury his client was so overcome with emotion and guilt, he didn’t even know what day it was and had no plan to escape the consequences of his action by fleeing to Mexico.
“We know that if his brain was working, and if he wanted to get to Mexico, all he had to do was walk out of his house, down the stairs, and drive away in [his company] truck that was right there.”
After the verdict was read, a judge denied bail for Fabiani, calling him a "menace" based on his five previous DUI convictions. The most recent was last November while he was out on bail in this case.
Fabiani faces two to four years in prison for the hit-and-run conviction.