SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man convicted of crashing his pickup truck over the side of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge while intoxicated, killing four people and injuring several others, lost a bid Friday to have his record expunged, the second denial he has received from a judge this year.
Richard Anthony Sepolio sought to have his parole terminated early and his convictions for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury erased through a new law that allows inmate firefighters an expedited path to purging their criminal records.
The law, which went into effect this year, aims to provide a smoother path for formerly incarcerated volunteer firefighters to obtain employment. Inmates released from custody can now apply for such relief if they successfully complete fire camp and judges can grant those requests if the expungement is found to be “in the interest of justice.”
Though the law precludes defendants convicted of certain serious offenses like murder and rape from being eligible for expungement, vehicular manslaughter is not covered under the code section.
Sepolio’s attorney, George Gedulin, said in court that his client is seeking to have his conviction expunged in order to secure a job with Cal Fire.
Sepolio was convicted by a San Diego jury in 2019, but was released from prison early into his nine-year, eight-month sentence stemming from the deadly Oct. 15, 2016, crash.
Prosecutors said he drank alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel and was speeding and attempting to cut off another driver just before his truck careened off the bridge and landed in Chicano Park.
Killed in the crash were Annamarie Contreras, 50, and Cruz Contreras, 52, a married couple from Chandler, Arizona, and Hacienda Heights residents Andre Banks, 49, and Francine Jimenez, 46. Seven other people were seriously injured.
In releasing Sepolio last fall, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation cited “various prison credits for good behavior as well as its policy of releasing inmates early due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a San Diego County District Attorney’s Office statement.
In opposing the expungement request, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright argued that granting Sepolio’s motion would treat the crimes as though they “never even existed” and said “I don’t think that expungement is ever going to be an appropriate remedy for this case.”
Gedulin countered that Sepolio “is trying his best to rehabilitate himself and earn a better living for his family going forward. Relief in one way does not diminish what happened in the past.”
Though Gedulin said Sepolio completed fire camp while in prison, a certification confirming his successful completion of the program could not be produced to the court.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert F. O’Neill originally denied the expungement motion in May due to the certification issue, and denied the motion again under the same grounds.
The judge added that he was also denying the motion because he could not conclude that the interests of justice would be served by granting the motion.
“This is a case where four people died because of the actions of Mr. Sepolio and I’m not willing to exercise my discretion and grant the motion under those circumstances,” O’ Neill said.
Despite the denial, Sepolio can bring his motion before a court again in the future.
Another court hearing was set for Sept. 17 to settle ongoing issues with restitution payments.
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