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One drink could cost teen driver 10 years

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One drink could cost teen driver 10 years

Bret and Melissa States read a letter to their son Branden who was “killed” in a simulated DUI crash. While knowing it was a staged production, it was still difficult for them to contain their emo...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 27, 2017 12:46 a.m.

Superior Court Judge Richard Vlavianos laid down the law to Ripon High’s junior and seniors.

If they drink and drive and kill someone while behind the wheel there are life changing prices to pay.

The judge appeared Friday in the Ripon High gym as part of the Every 15 Minutes effort to hammer home the consequences of driving under the influence to young drivers.

Judge Vlavianos told the class of one Lodi student who had gone through a similar Every 15-Minutes production a dozen years ago who apparently didn’t listen to his words and caused the death of an innocent victim.  She listened, however, when he sentenced her to 10 years in state prison for the death on a manslaughter charge. 

He noted that Escalon has had the highest death rate with DUIs with 47 over four decades until the advent of the E-15 productions in all the county’s high schools.  The judge noted that the deaths in that community immediately dropped to none in subsequent years.

The judge was concerned about the Ripon students and their upcoming prom and begged them to be careful and support each other when someone has been drinking.  He implored not to let them drive – block their car with yours, he suggested or just take their keys – but don’t let them become a casualty  or cause a death they will have to pay for the rest of their lives. 

As the Ripon High suspect in the school’s DUI production sat on the floor guarded by a Ripon officer and a CHP officer, Stockton civil attorney Mirko Kozina took to the microphone with a well rehearsed script on confronting a DUI suspect in the courtroom – shouting at the suspect in a broadcaster’s voice that rocked the room.  

He told the juniors and seniors that he would see that the suspect goes to state prison once he is convicted and that his parents will lose everything they have going into the millions of dollars that would be paid to the family of the deceased victims who had been killed in front of the school by the drunk driver. 

The attorney said that the loss of one life means the victims’ parents losing the chance of seeing a daughter getting married and the lack of having grandchildren someday – emotions that bring larger judgments in court often adding as much as $10 million.

Kyra Foley who was the second fatal victim of the Ripon High crash saw her grandmother,  Susan Maynard,  walk up to the lectern and tell her story of losing her 12-year-old sister to a drunken driver near the Presidio in San Francisco.

It was June 9, 1962 when her sister Jeanie left home at 9 a.m. and never returned, she said.

“She was so happy and excited to be spending the weekend at her best friend’s house.  They hadn’t spent much time together recently because my parents bought a home in another part of San Francisco and we had moved away,” she remembered

They had planned to have a picnic in Golden Gate Park near her friend’s home.  She said they walked to the corner and were about to cross the street when her friend Cathy said she had to run home and get a blanket to put on the grass. 

While Cathy ran back to get the blanket, the light changed so Jeanie started across the street.  At the same time, a man who had too much to drink ran through a red light knocking her body 127 feet from the crosswalk. 

“Jeanie was still alive when the ambulance arrived and they transported her to the hospital.  She had sustained severe head trauma and multiple broken bones.  My parents were called and they rushed there and Jeanie died less than an hour later.  My mother was inconsolable.  It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry.  He tried to comfort my mother, but she was just too broken.  It was years before she would completely recover.”

Maynard said her mother withdrew from the family and quit making dinner. She wouldn’t go to church any more.  She remembered that she secluded herself from friends and family and lost interest in everything except that her girls were home early and safe. 

“My mother became a different person after Jeanie’s death.  There was a depth of sadness to her that had not been there before and she did not seem able to overcome.  My mother’s new identity became a woman of grief, fear and anxiety,” she said. 

Maynard was 14 at the time and she and her younger sister always had to be home on time or their mom would go into a “full blown” panic attack. “I had to account for every minute I wasn’t with her.  It was even worse for my little sister who was 10 at the time.”

She left the Ripon High students with one caution: “Just a little alcohol can make a good driver dangerous and ruin or end lives.  Please, don’t ever get behind the wheel of a car if you have been drinking.  It isn’t worth an innocent life.  It isn’t worth the disruption of your own life.  It isn’t worth jail time or losing your license.  It isn’t worth the pain and loss it causes anyone.”

 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email gkahl@mantecabulletin.com. 

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