A motorist who led law enforcement on a high-speed chase that resulted in a deadly collision near the Fresno State campus four years ago was found guilty of murder on Tuesday.
A Fresno County Superior Court jury deliberated about five hours over two days before convicting Alexander Soto, 40, of second-degree murder in the February 2013 killing of motorist Mark Steven Bourdase, 61, of Clovis.
The jury also found Soto guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutor Noelle Pebet said Soto used his 2005 GMC Envoy to strike a patrol car during the pursuit.
In addition, the jury found Soto guilty of a felony charge of resisting police by fleeing the scene of a 2012 traffic stop.
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He faces 21 years and eight months to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 3 in Judge Denise Whitehead’s courtroom.
Alexander Soto testified and accepted responsibility for the fatal collision.
Defense attorney Scott Baly
Soto, a resident of Fowler, faced a murder charge under the legal theory of “implied malice.” To get a murder conviction, the prosecution had to prove he knew evading police at high speed was dangerous and showed a conscious disregard for human life.
During the trial, Pebet said on the night of Feb. 8, 2013, Soto was driving the Envoy with illegally tinted windows. Police tried to pull him over near Blackstone and Gettysburg avenues in central Fresno, but he took off.
Soto drove at high speeds and ran several red lights while being chased by police. The California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies soon joined the pursuit, which ended when Soto crashed into a car driven by Bourdase at Bullard and Chestnut avenues. The impact caused Soto to hit a fence on the Fresno State campus. He was arrested after running into a field.
Bourdase, who suffered massive head injuries, died eight days later.
The prosecutor said Soto ran red lights and led law enforcement officers on a high speed chase before crashing into a car at Bullard and Chestnut avenues during the late hours of Feb. 8, 2013.
Pebet told the jury that Soto knew his actions were dangerous because in 2005 he led a CHP officer on a 30-minute, high-speed chase. During the pursuit, he ran red lights and nearly caused a collision, Pebet said.
After he was caught, Soto apologized to the court, saying he was glad no one got hurt, Pebet told the jury. “I learned my lesson,” he told the judge, according to Pebet.
At the hearing, a judge told Soto that he had put the entire public in danger, Pebet said. But Soto did not heed the judge’s warning, the prosecutor said.
In September 2012, a Fowler police officer noticed that Soto was acting suspiciously, Pebet said. When the officer tried to pull Soto over, Soto took off. Because Soto ran red lights and stop signs at high speed, the officer had to end the pursuit.
During Soto’s trial, defense attorney Scott Baly told the jury that Soto didn’t intend to kill Bourdase.
After the verdict, Baly said: “Alexander Soto testified and accepted responsibility for the fatal collision. He maintains that he did not commit murder because he didn’t mean to hurt anyone and he was only trying to get away.”