Fresno Bee –
A proposed bill to increase penalties for fatal hit-and-run crashes has returned to the California state Assembly after prior failures. AB 1067, or Gavin’s Law, passed through the state’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday in an unexpected vote that the bill’s sponsor called “a miracle.” “We’re pleased and surprised,” Assemblymember Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said during a Zoom conference following the committee hearing.
Gavin’s Law is named for Gavin Gladding, a 43-year-old vice principal at Clovis Unified’s Fort Washington Elementary School. Gladding was training for a marathon in 2018 when he was struck and killed on Friant Road in north Fresno.
The driver who hit him had been drinking and fled the scene to avoid a DUI arrest. He also hid evidence of the crime, including a broken windshield.
AB 1067, legislation first introduced in 2019 by Patterson, looks to increase the criminal penalties in cases like Gladding’s to a maximum of six years (with judicial discretion), while closing a loophople that benefits DUI drivers. The current penalty for a fatal hit and run is four years. In Gladding’s case, the driver was sentenced to three years. He served 13 months.
Gladding’s mother spoke at the committee hearing Tuesday, calling the sentencing a “get out of jail free card.” Rita Gladding said that nearly a fourth of pedestrians killed nationally are victims of hit and run, and that her family was “collateral damage for callous drivers.”
Fresno promoter Mike Osegueda also testified at the hearing. His sister Courtney Osegueda was killed by a hit-and-run driver while leaving work in Oakland in 2021. The driver was arrested but remains out on bail awaiting trial. The woman was likely intoxicated at the time of the crash, Osegueda said. That can’t be proven “because she left,” he said. “And that is the loophole.” This wasn’t the first time either had told their stories.
Rita Gladding has testified four times since Gavin’s Law was first introduced four years ago. Osegueda spoke in 2021 before the Public Safety Committee, when the bill was passed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, only to fail to get needed support there. The first version passed the Assembly in 2020 but failed in the Senate Public Safety Committee. The difference this time around may be that the bill got signed off by two influential members of the Public Safety Committee, Patterson said, including Mia Banta, D-Oakland.
These are people who don’t usually vote for enhanced sentencing penalties, Patterson said. “But for some reason both were touched.” Patterson hopes those voices will lend needed support as the bill moves through the Assembly Appropriations Committee and eventually the Senate. “This is step one of the process,” Patterson said. “We’ve been here before. We are ready and prepared to tell Gavin’s story again.”