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Manslaughter Conviction in Kaminaga Case

CITY NEWS SERVICE

SANTA ANA — A 71-year-old man was convicted Friday of vehicular manslaughter for a drunken-driving collision in Orange in which a 60-year-old woman was killed and her son injured.

Edward Stanley Butler of San Bernardino faces up to four years and eight months in prison when he is sentenced May 4.

Butler was driving south in the 200 block of south Tustin Street on Sept. 8, 2010, when his Nissan pickup truck crashed into an Oldsmobile Alero driven by Tamiko Kaminaga, Deputy District Attorney Alison Gyves said.

Kaminaga was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the collision, and her then-17-year-old son, Jorge Maresch, suffered a broken nose and cuts to his face, Gyves said.

Jurors reached their verdicts late Thursday and they were announced the following morning. Butler was convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more.

The jury found sentencing enhancement allegations for causing great bodily injury to Maresch were not true. That shaved off about three years of Butler’s potential maximum sentence.

Jury foreman Bill Lobdell said a nurse on the panel convinced jurors that the broken nose is a common injury caused by the deployment of air bags.

“I understand that,” Gyves said after the hearing. “That’s not what the battle was about anyway. And it really is a subjective call.”

Butler’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michelle Riedel, argued that even a sober driver could not have avoided the collision.

That claim was undercut by the testimony of four other drivers who testified they were able to avoid an accident as Kaminaga edged her car into traffic.

Butler had more than 100 yards to slow down and avoid the accident, but he never braked or swerved, Gyves said, adding he broadsided Kaminga’s car at 40 mph.

Butler, who had an open bottle of vodka in the truck, had a blood-alcohol level of .22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit, when his blood was drawn at the hospital 90 minutes after the crash.

Another motorist, Darlene Cordi, testified she saw Kaminaga edging her car into traffic.

Cordi said she passed Kaminaga and saw the collision in her rear-view mirror while idled at a traffic light at Palmyra Avenue.

Officer Charles Lange, the first officer on the scene, testified that he kept talking to Maresch to keep him awake until paramedics arrived. Lange also testified that Butler appeared drunk and had difficulty keeping his balance.

Lange testified he twice told Butler not to get back in his truck.

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