Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A Santa Ana man with multiple drunken driving convictions pre-dating a collision that killed a pedestrian was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a plea deal in which a murder charge was reduced to gross vehicular manslaughter.

Ramon Horta, 56, also acknowledged a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter.

Horta, who accepted the plea deal Tuesday, was initially charged with second-degree murder after he was arrested for running over 24-year-old Marcello Bisarello the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2015, as the victim sat on a curb.

Had he gone to trial and been convicted of the murder charge, Horta would have faced at least 15 years to life in prison. Prosecutors often upgrade vehicular manslaughter cases to murder when defendants have received warnings from judges about the dangers of drinking and driving when they resolve a DUI.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney said further investigation showed Horta was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the fatal collision, but did test positive for methamphetamine.

Bisarello was sitting on a curb at 814 E. McFadden Ave., a few doors down from his Santa Ana home, when Horta’s 1995 Ford Windstar hit him and the driver kept going.

A good Samaritan who saw what happened followed the van, honked and yelled at the driver to pull over and ultimately got him to stop by parking his car in front of the Windstar, according to Birney.

Horta was initially charged with murder based on his prior DUI convictions, which resulted in the suspension of his driver’s license, Birney said when the case was filed. Horta, however, received his prior DUIs at a time when judges were not giving so-called Watson Waiver advisements about the dangers of drinking and driving, the prosecutor said Wednesday.

In one case, Horta was charged in 1991 and convicted in 1997. Another case dated back to 2000, and there was also a warrant out for his arrest on a DUI charge at the time of the collision, Birney said.

At the time of his arrest, Lori Haley of the Department of Homeland Security said DHS databases “indicate Mr. Horta has been removed from the U.S. on multiple occasions, most recently in January 2012.”

Horta pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance to sell and driving on a suspended license on Dec. 5, 2001, and was sentenced to nine months in jail, according to court records. On June 7, 2005, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 16 months in jail.

The defendant pleaded guilty on July 21, 2008, to possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and was sentenced to two years in prison, according to court records.

City News Service

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