SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A Sonoma County Superior Court jury will decide the fate of a Santa Rosa man charged with second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated after his Dodge Ram truck collided head-on with a Toyota Corolla, killing a Sonoma State University student last year.
In his statement to the jury Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lukas said Logologoa Taumaloto Tevaseu, 36, should be found guilty of second-degree murder with implied malice and a conscious disregard of human life because he knew the dangers of driving while impaired from his previous DUI crash in October 2011.
Lukas said Tevaseu’s blood-alcohol level was approximately 0.22 percent at the time of the collision on Lakeville Highway on Nov. 5, 2017. The complaint, however, only alleges he drove with an alcohol level of 0.15 percent or more, about twice the threshold of intoxication.
Tevaseu refused to take a chemical test at the site of the collision that killed Sonoma State business studies student Paulette Geronimo Quiba, 21, of Oakley, and injured five other people.
Tevaseu, a defensive line coach with the Santa Rosa Junior College Bear Cubs football team at the time of the crash, started drinking around 11 p.m. on Nov. 4 and didn’t stop until around 6 a.m. the next day, Lukas said.
“He was aware how much he drank and he tried to sweat it out playing basketball,” Lukas said.
Defense attorney Joseph Stogner, who argued against a second-degree murder conviction, told the jury in his closing argument that there was evidence at the trial that his client has a “significant tolerance” of alcohol.
Tevaseu drove his daughter from Healdsburg to Pleasant Hill around 10 a.m. on Nov. 5, about 11 hours before the collision. He played basketball for at least three hours, took his children to a dog park, ate pizza at a restaurant and drove to Pleasant Hill to pick up his daughter around 6 p.m., Stogner said.
“His actions were stable and steady during that day,” Stogner said.
Nevertheless, Stogner said Tevaseu’s decisions were “stupid” and he made terrible mistakes.
“The only offense beyond a reasonable doubt is he was reckless,” Stogner said.
Tevaseu talked for about 45 minutes on a cellphone and was confused about his location on the drive from Pleasant Hill to Sonoma County that evening.
“He had no idea where he was on a road he drove every day,” Lukas told the jury.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Tevaseu crossed double yellow lines to pass vehicles on southbound Lakeville Highway before the collision around 9 p.m. Three other vehicles subsequently collided with Quiba’s Toyota or into each other, and the occupants of those vehicles suffered moderate injuries, CHP officials said.
“The trial is about holding him accountable for the choices he made. This defendant committed implied malice second-degree murder,” Lukas said.
Stogner argued for the lesser charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
To convict his client of the murder charge, Stogner said, “You have to believe he didn’t care if other people lived or died, and that is crossing the Rubicon in my opinion.”
“We need to hold him accountable but we must not convict him of a crime he didn’t commit,” Stogner said.
Tevaseu also is charged with two felony DUIs, one with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08 percent, and both causing injury or death.
The jury is scheduled to start deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday.
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