LOS ANGELES – Saying that the man convicted of killing 10
people in 2003 when his car plowed into a throng attending a Santa
Monica street market “deserves to go to prison,” a Los Angeles judge
today cited the aging defendant’s failing health and burden to the
taxpayers as he instead ordered five years of supervised probation
and more than $100,000 in restitution, fees and fines.
George Russell Weller, 89, was not in court when Judge Michael
Johnson imposed sentenced. Because of his failing health, the court
had ruled that the defendant did not have to attend either his trial
The judge, however, said he fully agreed with last month’s jury
conviction of Weller on 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with
gross negligence. And the jurist said he was troubled by what he saw
as Weller’s lack of remorse.
Saying Weller displayed an “enormous indifference to human life,”
the judge termed “callous” statements made by the defendant when he
emerged from his car: “Just think of how I feel,” and, “Why didn’t
you get out of my way?”
“George Weller clearly deserves a prison sentence,” the judge
said. But he noted physician declarations filed by the defense that
claimed Weller is bedridden, frail and has mounting medical
problems. The judge said to order a prison term would be a burden on
prison authorities, a burden to the taxpayers who would have to pay
the cost of the aging defendant’s care during incarceration and
would “probably kill Mr. Weller.
The judge said he was more interested in Weller paying
restitution. He ordered $57,500 restitution for the survivors of two
of the victims who have applied. He also ordered $44,200 in fines
Deputy District Attorney Sam Dordulian said that as more requests
for restitution come in from families of victims, he would give them
to the court.
Dordulian, who assisted Deputy District Ann Ambrose in the
prosecution of the case, asked that further medical and
psychological testing be done prior to sentencing. He said that even
with the declarations that were presented to the court, there is a
need for additional testing.
Prior to sentencing, family members of one of the victims spoke,
as well as a nephew of Weller and one of his attorneys.
Weller was convicted on vehicular manslaughter with gross
negligence for the deaths of Theresa Bregalia, 50, of Bronx, N.Y.;
Brendon Esfahani, 7 months, of Los Angeles; Molok Ghoulian, 62, of
Los Angeles; Gloria Gonzalez, 35, of Venice; Movsha Hoffman, 78, of
Santa Monica; Leroy Lattier, 55, a transient; Diana McCarthy, 41, of
New York, N.Y.; Kevin McCarthy, 50, of New York, N.Y.; Cindy
Valladares, 3, of Los Angeles; and Lynne Ann Weaver, 47, of Woodland
The victims were struck while shopping at the Farmer’s Market on
Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica on July 16, 2003. Sixty-eight other
people were seriously injured.