A woman who drove drunk after a night out with co-workers in Kearny Mesa and ran over a colleague as he tried to prevent her from getting behind the wheel, killing him, was sentenced Monday to 15 years to life in state prison.
Latisha Ingram, 35, was convicted last year of second-degree murder and other charges for the June 27, 2019, death of 25-year-old Ha Minh Ta, who worked with the defendant at a Bank of America branch in Clairemont.
According to prosecutors, Ingram's blood-alcohol content was measured at .18%, more than twice the legal limit. She was charged with murder due to a 2010 DUI conviction in Orange County.
Prosecutors said that following 20 minutes of trying to convince Ingram not to drive home drunk, Ta grabbed onto her car as she sped off and was dragged for some distance before falling beneath the tires.
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Ingram's attorney, Monique Carter, argued at trial that her client was not guilty of murder because she had no idea the victim had grabbed onto her car and thus did not have the conscious disregard for human life necessary for a second-degree murder conviction. Carter told jurors the entire incident happened in a matter of seconds, so quick that Ingram did not even realize Ta had grabbed onto her car or had been run over.
Ingram and Ta met up with two other co-workers for after-dinner drinks and the defendant decided to drive home despite them "pleading with her, begging her not to drive," according to Deputy District Attorney Phillippa Cunningham.
Ta and fellow co-worker Gabriela Rojo tried to dissuade Ingram from getting behind the wheel, according to Rojo, who testified through tears that she urged Ingram to call a ride-hailing service.
Surveillance footage played for the jury showed Ta and Rojo hugging Ingram and trying to pull her away from her car. At one point, Ta appeared to take Ingram's purse away from her.
As Ingram drove out of the parking lot and turned southbound onto Convoy Street, Ta was holding onto her car and fell into the street. He was run over by the back tires, and the defendant continued driving, Cunningham said.
Paramedics rushed Ta to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Ingram was arrested a short time later.
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At Ingram's sentencing hearing, statements from Ta's brother and father were read, in which they said Ta acted as the sole provider for his parents, who suffered from medical issues.
The victim's older brother, Truc Ta, who was attending medical school and away from the family at the time of Ta's death, wrote that the last thing his sibling told his mother was to promise to "come home as soon as he made sure his manager did not drive intoxicated."
Truc Ta said Ingram "has taken everything that has ever brought me happiness and motivated me in life," noting that the brothers' mother also died about three months after her younger son. He wrote that she had been diagnosed with cancer a few years prior, but after her son died, she "lost the will to live" and stopped undergoing chemotherapy.
"She cried every single night for three months, missing her son, until the day she passed," he wrote.
Cunningham told San Diego Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh that it was "a tragic situation," but "also completely avoidable."
Carter urged the judge to take into account that he only saw a brief glimpse into her client's life and character during the trial and that "outside of the horrific events of that evening," Ingram was beloved by her friends and family.
Among several character letters submitted by many of Ingram's love ones, the judge highlighted one in particular that described Ingram as a great listener, something he said was not apparent on the evening of Ta's death.
"Your friends were trying to look out for you because, number one, they didn't want you to get arrested, and number two, they didn't want you to hurt anybody," Deddeh told Ingram. "You did not accept the sound advice that your friends were giving you."