Bradford R. Fenocchio
PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678
For Immediate Release
Date: April 16, 2010
Public Information Officer
Assistant District Attorney
DISTRACTED DRIVER WHO KILLED BICYCLIST IN ROSEVILLE
IS SENTENCED TO 480 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE
A Placer County judge took the suggestion of a deceased man’s best friend Thursday, imposing a sentence of 480 hours of community service on a defendant instead of giving him a jail term.
The unusual sentencing occurred in the case of Juan Carlos Gomez, a 23-year-old Yuba City man who struck and killed a bicyclist after becoming distracted as he drove his pickup truck on Blue Oaks Boulevard in Roseville during the early morning hours of Oct. 2, 2008.
Jeff Bayer, best friend of Cory Peck, the 48-year-old bicyclist who was killed, urged Superior Court Judge John L. Cosgrove to order the community service work because he felt that sending Gomez to jail would serve no purpose.
“I would implore the court to sentence (Gomez) to community service, possibly in a veterans’ hospital or home, or in a convalescent hospital, where there are likely accident victims who need care,” Bayer said, adding that his request was not being made to “rub your nose in it.”
“But rather so your sentence might more directly give back to people of similar circumstances – circumstances that they did not ask for nor deserve.”
Bayer said that Gomez’s inattention behind the wheel had robbed Peck’s family and friends of a special person. But Bayer also noted that many drivers, including himself, are guilty of similar distracted driving.
“I know that I’m personally guilty of drifting off the roadway, driving when I’m physically tired, using a cell phone when I’m not supposed to,” Bayer said. “Only God knows how close I’ve come to depriving someone of their own life at times.”
Bayer told Gomez that he has forgiven him for taking Peck’s life.
The defendant’s attorney, Mandeep Singh Sidhu, told Judge Cosgrove that his client has been extremely remorseful for having taken a life. He said Gomez has even written a letter of apology to the victim’s family.
In that letter, Gomez wrote that he relives the accident everyday, wishing he’d taken a different route to work or that he’d called in sick that day.
“I will have that memory for the rest of my life,” he wrote. “I truly am sorry that I took away a husband, father, grandfather and a friend to you all.”
Cosgrove, who had been prepared to impose a 60-day jail sentence recommended by the county’s Probation Department, said he liked Bayer’s suggestion and then ordered Gomez to provide community service at an undetermined hospital or health care facility.
Prosecutor Kate Scarborough of the Placer County District Attorney’s Office said the fatal accident occurred between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. in the darkness. She said Gomez became distracted as he drove, looked down for a moment and drifted off the road, fatally striking Peck.
Gomez immediately stopped his truck and called 911.
On Feb. 26, 2010, Gomez entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in the county jail.
Peck’s friend, Bayer, described the victim as an avid outdoorsman and adventurer who camped, fished and hunted and who frequently rode his bike to work in Placer County from Sacramento. He also recalled his friend as a person who made others laugh.
“Cory had a unique sense of humor that often had us literally rolling on the floor laughing until we couldn’t breathe, and we miss that,” he said.
Peck’s widow, Violet, did not attend the sentencing. Her letter to the court was read by a representative for the District Attorney’s Office.
“Cory was a very good husband, good father and a good son,” Violet Peck wrote. “Until now, I can’t believe that he is gone. I know I have to accept the truth that he is no longer coming home.”
When the sentencing concluded, another unusual twist in the court proceeding took place. A tearful Gomez and the friends of Cory Peck exchanged hugs of sympathy and wished each other well.