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Man Convicted in Santa Monica
Street Market Deaths Sentenced


November 20, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525


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 or sentencing.

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 and fees.

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 Hills.

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.

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