A man who was sentenced to nearly a decade in state prison for crashing a pickup truck over the side of a transition ramp to the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, killing four people and injuring several others when it landed in Chicano Park, was released from state prison Friday morning.
Richard Anthony Sepolio, 28, served two years and 10 months of his nine-year, eight-month sentence, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.
Sepolio was convicted by a jury last year of four counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of DUI causing injury. Prosecutors say he drank prior to getting behind the wheel — but was found to be below the legal blood-alcohol limit — was speeding and attempted to cut off another driver just before his truck careened off the bridge and landed in the park below.
The Oct. 15, 2016, crash killed Annamarie Contreras, 50, and Cruz Contreras, 52, a married couple from Chandler, Arizona; and Hacienda Heights residents Andre Banks, 49, and Francine Jimenez, 46. Seven other people were seriously injured.
The DA’s Office said the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “surprised” victims and prosecutors on Monday with the notification that Sepolio would be released. CDCR records indicate he was going to be eligible for parole in April.
The CDCR cited “various prison credits for good behavior as well as its policy of releasing inmates early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no specific reasons cited related to this defendant,” according to the DA’s Office.
“This very early release is unconscionable,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement released earlier this week. “CDCR’s decision is re-victimizing the family and friends of the four people killed and seven injured who have been devastated by their loss and continue to deal with the financial, emotional, mental and physical trauma caused by the defendant. This inmate continues to deny and minimize the crime by refusing to admit he was speeding and denying being impaired while arguing with his girlfriend on the phone, which resulted in the devastating crash.”
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told jurors Sepolio chose “to drive irritated, impaired and impatient.” In addition to having drinks prior to getting behind the wheel, Sepolio was arguing with his girlfriend on the phone just moments before losing control of his truck on the bridge, the prosecutor said.
Sepolio testified he was driving on the transition ramp — a route back to Coronado that he had driven more than 90 times before — when he sped up to merge in front of another car and lost control. Prosecutors said he was driving between 81 and 87 mph when the crash occurred.
— City News Service