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Judge Sentences DUI Driver in Fatal Orcutt Crash Involving Motorcyclist

Garrett Alford, 31, was given suspended prison term and stern warning by judge in death of Mario Coria-Gonzalez, 22, of Santa Maria

Garrett Alford, 31, was sentenced to a year in Santa Barbara County Jail and five years probation for a drunken-driving crash that killed a motorcyclist in Orcutt last year.
Garrett Alford, 31, was sentenced to a year in Santa Barbara County Jail and five years probation for a drunken-driving crash that killed a motorcyclist in Orcutt last year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)
Garrett Alford Click to view larger
Garrett Alford

Noting the case’s unusual circumstances, a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge sentenced a drunken driver involved in a fatal crash with a motorcyclist last year in Orcutt to spend 364 days in County Jail and to serve five years of probation.

Garrett Alford, 31, was taken away in handcuffs after the sentencing hearing before Santa Maria Judge Gustavo Lavayen on Wednesday.

Last month, Alford, 31, pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and driving with a blood alcohol limit above the legal limit. He also admitted a special allegation of causing great bodily injury.

He was charged in connection with a July 17, 2016, crash that killed motorcyclist Mario Coria-Gonzalez, 22, of Santa Maria. The victim was referred to in court as Mario Coria Jr. 

At approximately 8:20 p.m. July 17 on the 3400 block of Santa Maria Way near Bradley Road, a westbound motorcycle, driven by Coria, struck Alford's Nissan Pathfinder as he was turning left into an apartment complex driveway. 

The motorcycle slammed into the front passenger door of the Nissan, ejecting Coria, who was declared dead at the scene.

The judge said he spent significant time researching the appropriate sentence for Alford.

“Mr. Alford, I will tell you right now, given these charges, it would be very easy in a normal case to simply send someone to prison for a long time,” Lavayen said. “This case is very, very unusual. There is a lot of circumstances that surround the incident itself.”

According to the criminal complaint, Alford was driving with blood-alcohol content of .19 at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit.

Coria was driving with blood alcohol level of .07, below the limit of .08 considered for legal intoxication.

However, the coroner’s report also cited cocaine intoxication as a significant condition leading to Coria’s death, according to a sentencing statement filed by defense attorney Michael Scott in arguing against prison time.

Toxicology tests revealed Coria had a cocaine byproduct in his system at a level six times the reporting limit, the sentencing statement said.

Additionally, Coria did not have a motorcycle endorsement for his driver’s license, the document noted.

Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore said the prosecution team believed Alford should spend time in prison, noting the loss of life.

The judge did impose a three-year prison sentence, but suspended it pending Alford’s successful completion of probation.

Additionally, Alford’s driver’s license was suspended for three years, starting August 2016, and he faces fines, fees and restitution costs.

“Mr. Alford, I can assure you if you violate your probation in any sense, I think you can expect to be sent to prison. You’ve got three years hanging over your head,” the judge said.

Lavayen noted Alford had “absolutely no criminal history whatsoever.” 

Before the judge handed down the sentence, two slideshows played in the courtroom as family members and friends cried. People also read victim-impact statements about the loss of Coria, noting his 4-year-old son is left without a father.

“No father to hold him if he cries. No father to tell him that he is the best kid in the whole world, not to worry because come what may, ‘Daddy loves you’ and will take care of him,” a friend said in a letter read by Coria’s stepfather. 

“In other words, Mario is not the only victim, your honor. Don’t forget the tiny little victim, who will never know what it is to have a dad.”

The victim’s father, Maria Coria Sr., also spoke in court, recalling learning about the crash involving his son and then seeing the body of his dead son days later. 

“I give him so many kisses,” the father said, adding he still loves and misses his son.

The judge thanked those who gave victim-impact statements.

“Mr. Coria, you and your family and friends have my deepest sympathy. I’m very sorry for your loss,” Lavayen said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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