A San Clemente man was sentenced Friday to 24 years to life in prison for a drug-fueled crash on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Seal Beach that killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her father and sister.
Adam John Kanas, 39, was convicted in September of second-degree murder and driving under the influence of a drug causing injury with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury on the two victims who survived.
Kanas rammed his Chevrolet Tahoe into the back of a Tesla carrying Kendra Geddis, who died in the Aug. 15, 2016, crash that her 13-year-old sister, Kayla, and father, Don Geddis, survived.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg could have sentenced Kanas up to 48 years to life in prison, but declined to apply a sentencing enhancement for a prior 2015 conviction for burglary as part of the three-strikes law.
Kanas’ attorney, Robert Gottlieb, argued the prior strike should not be applied to double his client’s sentence because the burglary, which happened in 2013, amounted to Kanas mistakenly entering a friend’s neighbor’s apartment while drunk.
The traffic crash was “horrific,” but it was “not the result of habitual criminal behavior,” Gottlieb argued.
Kanas has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and has struggled with his drug addictions for years, Gottlieb said.
“There’s no question the crimes that were committed are horrendous,” Bromberg said. “But applying the three-strikes law would be tantamount to poetic justice, and we don’t do that here. That’s TV stuff.”
Don Geddis’ sister, Pam, asked Bromberg to apply the sentencing enhancement for the burglary.
“He has destroyed our family completely,” Pam Geddis said.
“You say you haven’t lost hope in him,” Pam Geddis said to Gottlieb, “But we’ve lost hope. Our lives are forever devastated, forever destroyed… We’ve lost Kendra, we’ve lost my brother and I’ve lost myself.”
Kanas tearfully told Bromberg that he has struggled to come to terms with what happened.
“I know on that day many lives were changed,” Kanas said. “A life was cut short and I’m responsible for that… The blame and burden of that I carry every day.”
He recounted seeing a TV commercial while in custody that showed a dad washing his daughters’ princess costume and he said he found it difficult to compose himself.
“I can’t imagine being in the other shoes,” Kanas said. “I just know how I feel and it’s terrible and I can’t change it… I don’t want to accept it, but I have to. If I could do anything to change that I absolutely would.”
Bromberg noted that Kanas has sustained 10 convictions, five of them for felonies, since November 1999, and that while in custody, he has been disciplined for 11 major violations. Kanas was charged with making alcohol while in custody and for concealing evidence last year, but those cases were dismissed after the sentencing.
Kanas “had to know” that driving under the influence was dangerous because he has been through rehab several times, Bromberg said.
“My sense is you didn’t care,” the judge said.
Kanas was given credit for 1,431 days in custody.
“I truly wish you well,” the judge told Kanas. “You’re going to be gone for a long time, but you can make good use of that time.”
The 10-year-old victim, who lived in the Bay Area city of Hillsborough, was returning home from a visit with her aunt when the crash happened.
The first 911 call about Kanas’ erratic driving in the southbound lanes of the San Diego (405) Freeway came in just before 6:55 a.m., but authorities could not track him down, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman. The next 911 call came in at 9:15 a.m. on the northbound San Diego Freeway in Seal Beach, Feldman said.
As traffic slowed, Kanas’ SUV veered over three lanes into the high-occupancy vehicle lane, where it slammed into the Tesla at 68 mph, Feldman said. The Tesla was going 12 mph, he said.
Kanas had Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, in his system at the time, along with the painkiller Oxycodone and the anxiety medication Alprazolan, Feldman said.
The defendant had a prior conviction for drunken driving on March 10, 2015, in Los Angeles County. As part of his plea deal, he had to take first-offender DUI classes and was warned that if he got another DUI and someone died as a result, he would face a charge of second-degree murder instead of gross vehicular manslaughter.
To be convicted of second-degree, or implied malice, murder, Feldman had to prove to jurors that Kanas engaged in behavior that he knew could be deadly.
“It’s a totality of the act,” Feldman explained, pointing to the reckless driving, impairment from the drugs, and knowing better because of the prior warnings.
Feldman also noted that Kanas told police who questioned him after that crash that he was driving to Hollywood and was “late.” The prosecutor showed jurors a clip of Kanas nodding off during questioning and, at times, snapping back awake.
“He chose to ignore the warnings,” Feldman said. “He chose to use the drugs. He chose to drive… Nothing explains this other than he knew better and gambled with human lives.”
When authorities served a search warrant at Kanas’ home following his arrest, they found a business plan he had drawn up for a sober living house that he wanted to start, Feldman said.