Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 4:26 pm | Fair 62º


Santa Maria Driver Sentenced For Vehicular Manslaughter In Pedestrian’s 2015 Death

Ismael Lares loses credit for time served in county jail after tampering with electronic alcohol-monitoring device while out of custody

A Santa Maria driver who pleaded guilty to killing a pedestrian was sentenced to six years in state prison Thursday, but lost credit for the time he already has spent in custody.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge John McGregor sentenced Ismael Lares, 35, to six years in state prison for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, as spelled out in the original plea deal.

But the judge declined to boost the sentence to 10 years, as requested by Deputy District Attorney Tristan Verburgt, as penalty for tampering with his electronic alcohol-monitoring device.

Last year, Lares pleaded guilty to the charge stemming from the March 16, 2015 death of Gerardo “Jerry” Barragon Leon, 38, of Santa Maria in the parking lot behind Louie B’s bar on East Main Street. Leon was struck by Lares, who left the scene of the 1 a.m. incident.

After the plea deal that called for Lares to be sentenced to six years in prison, the defendant, who was out of custody, reportedly consumed alcohol and tampered with his electronic alcohol monitor on Oct. 2 and 5.

That prompted Verburgt to ask the judge in November to instead sentence Lares to the maximum of 10 years since the man violated terms of his Sept. 1 plea agreement. The fact the original crime involved alcohol, Verburg said, made the new violation “all that more serious and significant to the sentencing in this case.” 

Ismael Lares is sentenced to six years in prison by Santa Maria Superior Court Judge John McGregor Thursday. Click to view larger
Ismael Lares is sentenced to six years in prison by Santa Maria Superior Court Judge John McGregor Thursday.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Defense attorney Robert Sanger sought to keep the six-year prison sentence under the plea deal. Rather than receiving a longer prison sentence, Sanger said, Lares should lose credit for the time he spent in county jail since he was taken into custody for violating the terms of his release on bail while awaiting sentencing.

A sentence of six years would be the mid-term under the state guidelines with others being either four years or 10 years.

On Thursday, Lares waived credits for 244 days — including  the 122 days he spent in jail plus credit for good conduct.

McGregor said the loss of 244 days is “an appropriate sanction” for drinking alcohol and tampering with the electronic alcohol-monitoring equipment.

Family members and friends of Leon previously told the judge about his death during emotional victim’s impact statements made in October.

“While nothing will change what happened, your life needs to change dramatically,” the judge told Lares. 

The defendant is expected to serve 50 percent of the sentence under state guidelines, Verburgt said. 

Additional charges were dropped against Lares, who initially was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, felony hit and run and driving under the influence.

Lares also received a strike under the California Three Strikes Sentencing Law and had his driver’s license suspended.

Verburg noted vehicular manslaughter cases are extremely tragic as families are left to cope with the loss of a loved one. 

“There is no punishment that would ever bring them back,” he said. “We do our best to get justice to protect the public from somebody who has killed somebody with their vehicle and that’s what we did in this case.”

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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >