The Morgan Hill woman who accidentally killed Gilroy cyclist
Bruce Finch was sentenced today to three years of probation and
monetary restitution to the victim’s family.
The Morgan Hill woman who accidentally killed Gilroy cyclist Bruce Finch was sentenced today to three years of probation and monetary restitution to the victim’s family.
Although the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office sought jail time for Rita Campos, 61, and she is accused of making unauthorized and spurious claims outside the courtroom, the judge said because of the accidental nature of her crime a jail sentence “wouldn’t accomplish anything.”
Finch’s brother Alan wept as his wife, Ginny Finch, asked Superior Court Judge Ronald Toff to consider the “collateral damage” Campos caused the family by prolonging the court proceedings. She said she and her husband recently spent their wedding anniversary in the courtroom observing the trial that led to Campos’ conviction.
Campos held back tears as she read a statement to Finch’s family and friends Wednesday, and cried continuously as she left the courthouse after learning what her sentence would be. Earlier this week, Campos said she was “scared” about the prospect of spending time in jail.
Campos was convicted of vehicular manslaughter following a jury trial in May. The jury found that Campos drove her Honda Civic negligently and failed to yield the right-of-way to Finch, 58, causing the Oct. 23, 2008 accident in west Morgan Hill that killed the cyclist.
If Campos violates the terms of her probation, she could be ordered to the maximum sentence of one year in county jail for the misdemeanor charge, Toff said.
Campos was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service, and to pay restitution to Finch’s family for expenses they have paid as a result of his death.
Those expenses would include funeral and counseling costs for Finch’s wife and relatives, Toff explained. The exact amount of those expenses will be determined at a restitution hearing scheduled for Oct. 14.
Campos was also ordered to pay a fine of $170.
“Hopefully, this (sentence) will at least start the healing process,” Toff said.
On the morning of the accident, Campos was making a left turn onto northbound Uvas Road when Finch, who was riding a Trek bicycle, struck the front left fender of the car. After the impact, Finch’s body ejected into the middle of Uvas Road. He was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived at the scene.
Jurors said after the trial that evidence – which included more than 40 photographs of the accident scene – presented by the D.A.’s office, a reenactment of the accident and the testimony of the California Highway Patrol officer who led the investigation, indicated Campos failed to yield to Finch.
No one other than Campos witnessed the collision.
Campos and Finch were represented by friends and family members in the courtroom for Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, which was delayed more than a month when Campos’ attorney did not attend the previously scheduled date of July 12.
Outside the courtroom, Campos’ attorney Richard Pointer said he thought the sentence was “fair.”
Finch’s supporters declined to comment.
Speaking in the courtroom during the hearing, Pamela Valentine said Campos has failed to take responsibility for Finch’s death.
“The woman who caused his death has portrayed herself as a victim and Bruce Finch as the perpetrator,” said Valentine, who did not specify how she knew Finch.
Deputy District Attorney Marcia Wallis added that during pretrial negotiations, Finch’s family notified the defendant they would have accepted a sentence of community service and payment for education efforts and warning signs on the road. Campos’ rejection of such offers shows “her inability to look beyond herself, and not make (Finch’s family) have to live through (his death) with a trial.”
Furthermore, Wallis noted Campos made inconsistent statements about what she saw and heard at the time of the accident, what she did to avoid an accident and whether she stopped at the stop sign and looked to the left – the direction from which Finch was approaching – before turning. Those inconsistencies were uttered during the trial, in her interviews with police investigators and to the Morgan Hill Times, Wallis said.
Wallis and Toff noted even though Campos was ordered not to talk to the press during the trial, she did so anyway.
For these reasons, the D.A.’s office requested Campos serve a minimum jail sentence of six months, and pay a fine of $1,000, Wallis said.
Also during the hearing, Campos turned to Finch’s friends and relatives and read a statement indicating remorse, and said she would go back and change the outcome of that October morning if she could.
“I hope you can find it in your heart that I am sincerely sorry you had to endure this, and I’m truly sorry for your loss,” Campos said.