A state appeals court panel upheld a man’s conviction for a DUI crash in which a pedestrian was killed outside the Santa Monica courthouse.
SANTA MONICA, CA — A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld a man’s conviction for a DUI crash in which a pedestrian was killed outside the Santa Monica courthouse nearly four years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support Absadi Tewelde Kidane’s conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in connection with the March 21, 2017, crash that killed Donald Thomas Jr., a 40-year-old married father of two who lived in Hawthorne.
The appellate court justices noted in their 14-page ruling that there was “ample evidence establishing that defendant was under the influence,” and that the prosecution’s expert toxicologist attested to the level of THC — the psychoactive element in marijuana or cannabis — in Kidane’s system nearly three hours after the crash.
“Defendant drove his car in an erratic and reckless manner through the courthouse parking lot, during a busy time of day, breaking through a parking gate arm and careening into two concrete-filled steel bollards and then into the ticket machine where Mr. Thomas was standing,” the appellate court panel noted.
The justices also noted that jurors saw photographs of the scene and surveillance video that “captured the violence of the incident,” and that jurors heard testimony “from multiple witnesses that defendant got out of his crashed vehicle just a few car lanes away from where Mr. Thomas’s motionless body lay in the street and he took off running.”
Thomas — who had been paying for parking at a kiosk at about 3:30 p.m. that day — was taken to a hospital, where he died that day of multiple traumatic injuries.
A security guard chased after Kidane and yelled for him to stop to no avail as he ran from the scene until several patrol cars arrived and officers apprehended Kidane, according to the ruling.
Along with finding Kidane guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter, jurors found true an allegation that he had fled the scene of the accident. He was also convicted of a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
Jurors subsequently found that he was sane at the time of the crash.
The panel noted that Kidane testified in the sanity phase of trial that he had dropped out of school in the months preceding the crash, had trouble sleeping, began to feel paranoid and was using a lot of marijuana.
“On the day of the accident, he said he wanted to kill himself and did not intend to hurt anyone else,” the panel noted in its ruling.
Kidane was sentenced in November 2019 to 15 years in state prison.
Published: February 11, 2021