Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release, Case # 12CF1698: October 18, 2013
DRUNKEN DRIVER SENTENCED TO NINE YEARS IN PRISON FOR KILLING MOTORCYCLIST AND INJURING ANOTHER DRIVER IN CHAIN-REACTION CRASH
SANTA ANA – A drunken driver was sentenced yesterday, Oct. 17, 2013, to nine years in state prison for killing a motorcyclist and injuring another driver in a chain-reaction crash. Leslie Juarez, 29, Laguna Beach, pleaded guilty Sept. 10, 2013, to one felony count each of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing bodily injury, and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more causing bodily injury with an allegation for driving with a blood alcohol level of .20 percent or more and a sentencing enhancement inflicting great bodily injury.
At approximately 11:30 p.m. on March 29, 2012, Juarez consumed alcoholic beverages before driving her Mitsubishi Eclipse southbound on the Interstate 405 north of the Sand Canyon exit in Irvine. Juarez was speeding and swerved into another lane, and struck the passenger side of a Nissan Sentra driven by 21-year-old Joelle Friedlander. Juarez caused Friedlander’s car to go over the center divider and spin out of control onto the northbound side of the freeway. The impact of the collision with the center divider disabled the engine and lights on Friedlander’s vehicle before it came to a stop facing eastbound in the two carpool lanes. Friedlander was able to exit the car and run to the center median.
Approximately two minutes later, a motorcycle driven by 32-year-old JC Droege, slammed into the disabled Sentra while he was riding on the northbound Interstate 405, throwing Droege from his motorcycle.
Juarez caused the chain-reaction crash that killed Droege, who was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple blunt traumatic injuries. Friedlander was taken to Hoag Hospital in Irvine and was treated for a fractured ankle, bruises, and cuts.
When California Highway Patrol officers arrived, Juarez displayed objective signs of intoxication which included emitting an odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and unsteady balance. Approximately two hours after the crash, Juarez had a blood alcohol level of .23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.
At the sentencing yesterday, Droege’s father and girlfriend gave impact statements. Droege’s father stated, “The effects of my son being killed by a drunk driver. During the first year the electricity was almost turned off at my house several times due to the numbness. I had no motive to do anything. You just exist.”
Droege’s longtime girlfriend explained that the night of the accident, “I lost my love, my other half and a part of me died when the knock at the door notified me that he was killed. All my hopes and dreams were destroyed in a split second.”
Droege’s mother submitted a statement to the court and stated that, “My life has been robbed of all its joy and happiness. She has taken away my future and replaced it with a prison.”
Deputy District Attorney Anna McIntire of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney 401 Civic Center Drive West Santa Ana, CA 92701