SANTA ANA - A distracted driver was sentenced today to four years in state prison for killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk after failing to slow or stop. The driver had been illegally sending text messages prior to the crash. Martin Burt Kuehl, 42, Costa Mesa, was convicted by a jury Jan. 27, 2010, of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence.
Proving yet again that we live in the most punative society, we imprison someone for tragic carelessness. To be sure, this is a tradegy, but if he had been distracted by anything else, would he be in prison?
Prior to the crash on Aug. 29, 2008, Kuehl was illegally text messaging while driving in Newport Beach in a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Prior to making a left turn on Westcliff Drive, the defendant was not paying attention and did not advance when the light turned green, prompting a driver behind him to honk. The defendant then made a wide turn from the number one left turn lane on Dover Drive into the number two westbound lane on Westcliff Drive.
At approximately 8:30 a.m., a distracted Kuehl failed to slow or stop as he approached a crosswalk, where 32-year-old Martha Ovalle was crossing the street. The defendant hit and killed the victim with his SUV. Kuehl had an unobstructed view of the crosswalk for 286 feet prior to striking the victim and failed to see the pedestrian or slow or break in any way. Kuehl admitted to Newport Beach Police, who investigated this case, that he never saw the pedestrian. Ovalle was pronounced dead at the scene due to blunt force injuries to her head, torso and extremities.