A 47-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday, March 26, and was sentenced to four years in prison for killing a woman in what prosecutors characterized as a deadly street race in Irvine.
Jurors deadlocked 11-1 for acquittal on a charge of second-degree murder for Patrick Le in February, prompting a plea deal for the defendant on Friday in the July 3, 2018, death of 43-year-old Carmella Van. Le pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and was given credit for 1,000 days spent in custody.
Le apologized to the victim’s family in a statement read by his attorney, Brian Gurwitz.
“This is a difficult letter to write and I’m sure it’s even harder to receive, but I have to tell you how deeply sorry I am for the death of Carmella Vann,” Le said in the letter. “I wanted to let you know that I deeply regret the tragic event that took place on July 3, 2018, when Carmella Vann went to be with her Lord in heaven.
“Although nothing can change what had happened, I wanted you to know that I always regret and wish this tragic event never happened. I do not ask for forgiveness, but please know that I feel a lot of pain and remorse,” the statement said.
The victim’s father, Presley Vann, said in his victim impact statement in court that he forgave the defendant.
“Every day became a struggle more and more” since his daughter’s death, Presley Vann said. “But here’s the joy of the thing. Carmella was a born-again Christian and she is with her Lord and one day I will see her.”
The victim’s husband, Jonathan Chance, described how they bonded over an affinity for 1980s songs. Once when they were driving together and singing to an ’80s song on the radio they got to a shopping mall and immediately heard the same song, prompting Carmella Vann to tell her future husband, “I think I’m in trouble,” he said.
Vann, who graduated from UC Irvine, left behind a 3 1/2-year-old son.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Janine Madera said in a trial brief that Le was driving an Acura RL and co-defendant Anthony Gabriel Valenzuela was driving a Hyundai Veloster on Main Street and Red Hill Avenue in Irvine. A video from a shuttle bus captured the start of the race.
“When the light turns green, Le and Valenzuela take off from the limit line quickly and accelerate quickly,” Madera wrote.
Le eventually veered over the double yellow divider and into oncoming traffic, Madera alleged. The victim slammed on the brakes of her vehicle, but Le “never brakes,” Madera alleged. Le drove straight into the victim’s vehicle, hitting her head on, forcing her backward. Her insides were ripped apart and she died instantly, Madera said.
Gurwitz argued that Le was forced out of his lane by Valenzuela, who is awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
Source: Orange County Register