Delay sparks angry response

Delay sparks angry response

Displays of anger and frustration greeted a surprise delay in
the sentencing hearing for Rita Campos, who was found guilty of
vehicular manslaughter in the death of Gilroy cyclist Bruce
Finch.
Displays of anger and frustration greeted a surprise delay in the sentencing hearing for Rita Campos, who was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter in the death of Gilroy cyclist Bruce Finch.

The Monday sentencing was delayed at the last-minute request of the defendant’s attorney.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Ronald Toff repeatedly noted his agitation, and tensions flared between the families of Campos and Finch in the courtroom. But the judge said he was left with no other choice than to wait until Campos’ attorney could be present.

Richard Pointer, the attorney who has represented Campos throughout most of the court proceedings since the Oct. 5, 2008 collision that killed Finch, could not attend the hearing Monday because he had another trial. Attorney Michael Horner, who works in Pointer’s office, relayed the delay request.

Pointer, however, knew he was going to be in another trial days before Monday’s hearing, but failed to notify the court in due time, Toff said. He added that Pointer’s timing was “discourteous” to the victim’s family.

“I am very upset and distressed with Mr. Pointer,” Toff said from the bench. “He knew this (other) trial was coming up, and he could have contacted the court.”

The request was granted because Campos “has the right to have her attorney here,” Toff added, but he said he will not allow any more delays.

Finch’s relatives should also be given the opportunity to make a statement, Toff said.

Monday’s hearing had been scheduled since May 24, when a jury found Campos guilty of vehicular manslaughter, a misdemeanor. The hearing was rescheduled for Aug. 18. Campos faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.

After Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Marcia Wallis exited the judge’s chambers and told Finch’s family that the sentencing would likely be delayed, the victim’s brother glared at Campos from the other side of the courtroom.

Campos replied, “Why are you looking at me? I didn’t postpone it.”

During the hearing, the judge asked Finch’s supporters to be quiet following a brief outburst when Horner said he was uncertain if Pointer would be able to attend another proposed date for a future hearing.

And on the way out of the courtroom, Finch’s brother quietly called Campos’ boyfriend an unfavorable name as he walked by him. Campos’ boyfriend replied with an angry expletive.

Campos said on the phone after the hearing that she and her relatives decided to wait until Finch’s family was gone before they left the courtroom.

“They were acting like it was my fault,” she said.

In May, a jury found that Campos drove negligently when her Honda Civic struck Finch at the intersection of Uvas and Little Uvas roads in west Morgan Hill. Campos was making a left turn onto northbound Uvas Road when Finch, 58 of Gilroy, who was riding a Trek bicycle, struck the front left fender of the car.

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