A woman who was under the influence of marijuana when she caused a head-on collision near Scripps Ranch that killed a passenger in the other car was sentenced Friday to nearly a dozen years in state prison.
Hyun Jeong Choi, 36, was convicted in January of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury for the March 27, 2016, crash that killed 43-year-old Amanda Walzer and left her fiance, Jon Warshawsky, with a traumatic brain injury.
Choi had also been charged with second-degree murder for the crash, but jurors deadlocked on that count. Choi agreed to accept a stipulated 11- year, eight-month sentence and waive her appellate rights to avoid a retrial on the murder count, which would have triggered an additional 15-years-to-life term had she been convicted.
In 2013, Choi pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and was given several warnings about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Aguilar.
The prosecutor said that just before the fatal collision, Choi had smoked marijuana she purchased at a nearby dispensary. An open bag of marijuana and a freshly used pipe were found in the defendant’s vehicle after the crash, he said.
After she was released from the hospital, Choi admitted she “tried to fight it” and “tried to get home” after smoking the marijuana she had just bought.
Defense attorney Stephen Cline told the jury Choi made a “naive and negligent mistake” by purchasing what she thought was the same kind of medical marijuana she had used before to calm her social anxiety.
When Choi returned from traveling overseas, her usual dispensary was gone and she purchased what she thought was the same type of marijuana that had helped her before from a dispensary in the Miramar area, Cline said. The attorney said there were no warnings about the strength and potency of the marijuana, which had an immediate impact on Choi.
“She had no idea what she left that store with,” her attorney said. “She was impaired. Catastrophically impaired.”
Witness Regis Kodzi testified that he and his wife were traveling on Pomerado Road behind Warshawsky’s 1956 Porsche when Choi’s Toyota Corolla crossed a center divider and hit the vintage sports car head-on about 5:30 p.m.
–City News Service
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