Plea delayed for alleged drunken driver

James Francis Lee

The plea hearing for a Gilroy man who was allegedly driving
drunk when his truck slammed into a family broken down on the side
of U.S. 101, killing their 4-year-old son, was delayed until next
month.
The plea hearing for a Gilroy man who was allegedly driving drunk when his truck slammed into a family broken down on the side of U.S. 101, killing their 4-year-old son, was delayed until next month.

James Francis Lee, 44, of Gilroy, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges prosecutors brought against him after the crash, including gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol over the legal limit and causing injury.

The evening of July 11, a Gilroy family’s truck broke down on the west side of southbound U.S. 101 just south of Metcalf Road in South San Jose. The mother and daughter got out of the smoking 2001 Chevrolet S-10 and the father, Jesus Cortez, was working to unbuckle his son’s seat belt when Lee’s truck, a 1989 Ford F-250, slammed into the S-10. The impact caused a toolbox in the S-10’s bed to fly through the rear window and strike the boy.

Paramedics used the Jaws of Life to extricate Jose, who sustained major wounds to the head but was still breathing at the scene, from the wreck and life-flighted him to Valley Medical Center. But the little boy’s injuries were too severe and he was pronounced dead less than two hours after the crash, police said.

Police arrested Lee at the crash and took him into custody after he was treated for minor cuts. Lee, who was returning home to Gilroy from a heavy metal concert in Mountain View, was allegedly intoxicated and veered off the road, colliding with the family’s truck at about 65 or 70 mph, California Highway Patrol Officer Jaime Rios said. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit of 0.08, police said. The S-10 was “almost unrecognizable” after the crash and the F-250 rolled onto its roof, Rios said.

Lee will next appear in court 9:30 a.m. Sept. 3 in Department 23 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose for a plea hearing.

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