A motorist who caused a deadly traffic collision that killed a Selma family man was sentenced Tuesday to 119 days in a work program – a punishment that angered the mother of the victim’s young son.
“She’s not sorry. She doesn’t care,” Dionicia Hernandez said of Vikki Ann Robinson, who was convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of 31-year-old Arthur Lara.
“I can’t believe she didn’t go to jail,” said Hernandez, who walked out of courtroom when she learned Robinson was sentenced to a work program.
In defending the punishment, Judge Jane Cardoza said the jury found Robinson guilty of “ordinary negligence.” There was no evidence of Robinson speeding or driving recklessly, the judge said. In addition, Robinson had little or no criminal history.
Robinson has to enroll in the work program by Dec. 18. If she doesn’t, she has to surrender herself to the jail, Cardoza said.
Still, Hernandez said the defendant essentially got a slap on the wrist. “She should have received the maximum sentence” of a year in jail, Hernandez said.
The sentencing closes the book on what Cardoza called “a difficult case that is truly a tragedy.”
The California Highway Patrol said that on March 15, 2013, Robinson was passing cars when she drove south in the northbound lane of Highway 43 north of Cairo Avenue and hit a pickup. The pickup struck a wooden power pole and flipped. The pickup driver, Richard Martin, was not seriously injured, the CHP said.
Robinson then hit a Mazda head-on, killing Lara, a state correctional officer, and seriously injuring his 3-year-old son, Isaiah. A fourth vehicle, driven by Michael Yaskow, 32, of Lemoore, also crashed into the rear of the Mazda. A passenger in his car was taken to Adventist Medical Center-Hanford for treatment.
Fire erupted after the crashes, prompting people to stop and help pull victims from the wreckage, the CHP said.
Lara’s son suffered major head injuries and was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. Robinson was also airlifted to the hospital with major injuries.
I can’t believe she didn’t go to jail.
Dionicia Hernandez said of the defendant
The CHP concluded drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor in the crash, although initial reports blamed the accident on drunken driving.
In court Tuesday, defense attorney Sonya Michalina Rinkus said Robinson did not pose a danger to society. “It was an unfortunate, isolated event,” Rinkus told the judge. “She blacked out, potentially due to drowsiness.”
But prosecutor Kenneth Jenq said Robinson showed a pattern of recklessness because she was driving on little sleep and was passing vehicles before the crash. “The defendant has shown no remorse until the day of her sentencing,” the prosecutor said.
In her statement to the judge, Robinson said she, too, has suffered. She lost her job, lives in Sacramento on welfare and takes care of two disabled children. She said the television media has portrayed her as an “evil, heartless person who was careless and reckless.”
“Honestly, I don’t remember what happened,” she told Cardoza.
Hernandez, however, told the judge that Robinson has refused to accept any responsibility for her deadly actions. She also said Robinson purposely delayed prosecution by moving out of the area.
Hernandez said she and Lara had been together for five years and that he was a good father to his son and her two daughters. When it was his birthday, Lara wanted a present for his son, not himself. “He wanted his son to be happy,” she said while wiping tears from her eyes.
“He wanted to teach his son to play baseball and help him with his homework,” Hernandez said. “But that will never happen.”
She said Isaiah suffered a serious brain injury and still has nightmares. Her daughters also miss Lara.
“She never once reached out and offered her condolences to us,” Hernandez said.