[UPDATED] Sentencing for Distracted Driver Includes Working 300 Hours As a School Crossing Guard

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UPDATED, MARCH 15, 2011, 12:05 P.M.: Claims against the city of Huntington Beach have now surfaced in the deadly accident, The Orange County Register reports.

On Sept. 7, 2010, at the crosswalk of Springdale Street and Croupier Drive, the SUV of Robert Casares plowed into the car of Caryl Johnson, which then hit the family, causing the death of a 4-month-old baby.

Johnson, a resident of the city, claims the crosswalk is dangerous and that she suffered serious injuries in the accident. Her husband, Ronald, also filed a claim alleging loss of consortium due to his wife's injuries.

The crosswalk was considered precarious before the accident occurred, according to the claims. Both claims cite similar alleged deficiencies at the intersection, including overhead flashing lights that are not always in operation, lack of sufficient markings on the pavement, and lack of pedestrian-activated warning lights, according to the Register. Caryl Johnson alleges negligence, fault and liability.  

ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 9, 10:02 A.M.: Last year, Robert Casares, a driver in Huntington Beach, was securing a laptop that was sliding off the passenger seat of his SUV when he crashed into the car in front of him, causing a chain-reaction accident that ejected a 4-month-old girl from her stroller and killed her.

He pleaded guilty yesterday to one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. Casares was sentenced to three years of informal probation, ordered to make a $5,500 donation to the Joyful Child Foundation (an organization that protects children from sexual assault) and must complete 300 hours of community service as a school crossing guard. 

He could have faced up to a year in jail, but he worked out a plea deal with Deputy District Attorney Michael Bardeen. From the beginning, the victims indicated they didn't want the defendant to go to jail.

According to prosecutors, Casares was driving across train tracks when bumps caused his laptop to begin sliding out of its case. When he glanced down to secure the computer, he didn't realize that traffic had stopped. He struck a pickup truck in front of him, which then hit a family in the middle of a crosswalk. The baby, Ruby Rose Gould, was tossed from her stroller, landing 70 feet away. Her mother, Renee, suffered a dislocated shoulder and fractured vertebrae. An 11-year-old girl broke her leg.

Casares remained on the scene and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

The victims are from Australia and were visiting relatives in Orange County when the accident occurred. At the sentencing, Renee Gould tearfully told the court, "Ruby was everything to us. She made our lives complete. After three years of trying for a baby, we were finally a family. Now our family has been ripped apart. When doctors explained to me the extent of her head and internal injuries, my heart was shattered. She was so perfect in every way. How could this wonderful, precious gift we had been given be taken away so soon?"

Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter may be charged when there's a failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to one's self or another.  

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