Drunk driver who killed 3 passengers sentenced to 18 years

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SAN DIEGO -- A drunken driver who crashed his SUV on a freeway transition ramp, killing three of his five passengers, was sentenced Friday to 18 years in prison.

William Daniel Cady, 26, was convicted last month of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI, but acquitted of second-degree murder.

Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said Cady was warned three years before the Jan. 10, 2014, crash about the dangers of alcohol. Superior Court Judge Melinda Lasater told the defendant in 2011 to abstain from alcohol following a vandalism conviction in which he punched through a wall, she said.

Cady's blood-alcohol content was somewhere between .10 and .18 percent at the time of the crash, which happened about 11:15 p.m., Harvey said.

She said he also crashed a Mustang sometime prior to the deadly collision, and it was a miracle that no one was hurt or killed then. The earlier crash should have provided the defendant with a ``heightened notice'' that his actions were dangerous, she said.

“This wasn't an accident,'' Harvey told Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian, who presided over Cady's trial and sentencing.

Defense attorney Rafael Acosta told the judge that his client, who did not make a statement, was willing to take responsibility early in the proceedings, but prosecutors insisted on going to trial on three murder counts.

Everyone in the car had been drinking that night and shared responsibility for the results of the crash, he said.

The judge, however, said the defendant assumed full responsibility for everyone in the vehicle as soon as he put it in motion.

“Mr. Cady, when you look around this courtroom, you'll see six devastated families -- yours included,'' Hanoian said.

He also ordered a combined nearly $6,200 in restitution to the families of two victims. Restitution for two other families will be decided later, the judge said.

One of Cady's passengers, Trevor Rodgers, testified that Cady was going too fast and sped up and laughed when all five passengers asked him to slow down just before he lost control of his SUV while going an estimated 87-97 mph on the transition ramp from northbound Interstate 805 to westbound state Route 52.

“He laughed maniacally, psychotically -- that's the way it was described,'' Harvey said.

The prosecutor said the SUV flipped at least five times, and four passengers were ejected from the vehicle.

Taylor Bednarski, 29, and Shon Gilliam, 23, died at the scene. A third passenger, 35-year-old Jeffery Becker of Kern County, died in the crumpled SUV.

“I know the truth. You murdered my son and two others and you laughed while you did it," said Sileen Bednarski, Taylor's mother. "They lived their last moments in fear and terror -- for that, I will never forgive you as long as I live.”

Cady and his five companions were drinking at one of their homes, then at the Sky Box sports bar in Clairemont, in the hours before the crash.

After leaving Sky Box, one of the men bought whisky at a grocery store, then the group made its way to a second bar and was kicked out of that establishment for being too rowdy, according to testimony.

A bartender testified that the group of men were ``all visibly wasted'' an hour before the accident. Camilly Berardi said she offered to call a cab or car service to take Cady and his five friends home because she didn't want them on the road.

“He chose to drive while intoxicated and worse than that, he chose to drive his friends. He played god that night. I pray that he never puts another family through what he has put all of us through," said Wendy Lauck, Becker's girlfriend.

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