An Aliso Viejo man was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in federal prison for running over a U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee at the Federal Building in Laguna Niguel three years ago, leaving the victim with permanent injuries.
Geoffrey Donald Rickner, 48, previously admitted driving his Mercedes-Benz sedan into CBP security specialist Jose Gutierrez on March 3, 2016, outside the Chet Holifield Federal Building, commonly known as the Ziggurat Building. After slamming into the victim, the car continued through a metal garage door and crashed into a concrete wall.
Gutierrez — who was in a well-marked crosswalk and wearing his federal employee identification card at the time — suffered serious head and leg injuries, along with broken ribs and internal bleeding, that resulted in a three-week hospitalization. His injuries “continue to cause him pain and physical impairment,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
By the time of the March 2016 attack, Rickner, a certified financial planner, had been involved in a years-long dispute with the IRS regarding his tax situation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The prosecution’s sentencing memorandum states: “Although the financial mess was entirely of his own making, the resulting stress made defendant frustrated and angry …with the IRS and, more generally, the U.S. government.”
Accordign to a U.S. Attorney’s Office statement, Rickner had gotten “involved in a `tax denial’ group, stopped paying taxes, and began incurring large civil penalties for non-payment of tax.”
Rickner had been behaving suspiciously in the hours before the collision, leading building security personnel to detain him at one paint, during which he made comments about owing money to the IRS, according to court documents. He had shown up at the Federal Building earlier that day to talk with someone at the IRS, but did not haven an appointment and had been told to leave the premises.
Rickner pleaded guilty May 14 to one count of assault on a federal employee by use of a dangerous and deadly weapon and inflicting bodily injury and was sentenced to the 57-month term by U.S District Judge James V. Selna.