A former Stanford University School of Business graduate student will serve four years and eight months in state prison and must pay one of the injured in a fatal DUI collision more than $400,000 in restitution, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge determined Friday morning.
Zachary Katz, 28, expressed remorse for his actions on Oct. 5, 2013, in which one man was killed and two others were injured after he drove the wrong way down U.S. Highway 101.
A jury convicted him on Nov. 17, 2017, of one count of felony vehicular manslaughter under the influence of alcohol; felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury; felony driving with .08 percent or higher blood-alcohol level causing bodily injury; a great bodily injury enhancement; and a multiple-victims allegation, the latter two adding time to a sentence. He faced up to 12 years in state prison, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
California Highway Patrol officers arrested Katz after he drove his Infiniti sedan north onto southbound Highway 101 in South San Francisco for 1.75 miles before striking a Ford Escape SUV taxi head-on at about 3:50 a.m. The cab careened across the roadway and was struck by a Mazda traveling south.
The collision killed taxi passenger Pedro Juan Soldevilla, 62, of Puerto Rico. He was completely ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. A second passenger, Miguel Santiago, was taken to the hospital with major injuries and survived. Neither passenger was wearing a seat belt, according to the CHP. The taxi driver, identified as 31-year-old Azmach Ejersa of Emeryville, was also hospitalized with broken bones. The Mazda driver was uninjured, District Attorney's officials said.
Katz, who attended Stanford at the time, had to be extricated from his car. He was hospitalized with major injuries. Katz had a blood alcohol content of around 0.15 to 0.16, the CHP said at the time. A blood test found a 0.13 percent blood alcohol reading at the hospital two hours later, according to District Attorney's officials.
Judge Leland Davis will determine at a later date how much restitution Katz must pay to Soldevilla's family and the other victims. Davis ordered Katz to pay Santiago $418,378 in restitution, Wagstaffe said.
After the sentencing, Katz's attorney asked if his client could spend five minutes with his family before being remanded into custody. Katz has been out on $250,000 bail since the collision. Davis granted the request and Katz spent about 10 minutes with his parents, Wagstaffe said.
Wagstaffe said there were "no winners" in the case, which he said was tragic for all involved.
The case, which took four years to resolve, was fraught with twists and turns as Katz's defense tried to knock the blood evidence out of court. The defense had argued that his blood was drawn involuntarily.
On Oct. 27, 2015, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach ruled the blood-draw results were not admissible because the CHP officer did not read Katz the implied-consent law prior to taking the blood sample. Mallach concluded that the blood draw was involuntary and violated Katz's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. The judge acknowledged at the time that no appellate case existed holding that reading the defendant his rights was required to draw the blood. Prosecutors filed an appeal on Nov. 24, 2015.
The California First District Court of Appeal reinstated the blood evidence on March 29, 2016. The state Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court on June 15, 2016, refusing to hear the case.
The case was again argued in the state appeals court in November 2016, but the court found in January 2017 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling did not apply to the inevitable discovery doctrine on which Katz's appeal was based. The state Supreme Court again declined to hear the case in March. The appeals court's decision therefore became final in April 2017.