Family members and friends of the victims in a deadly runaway truck crash packed a courtroom Thursday for the sentencing of trucker Marcos Costa, who was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison.
He also was ordered to pay restitution. Costa faced up to nine years in prison.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis had allowed Costa to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing, but ordered him to immediately be taken into custody after being sentenced.
"It is simply a horrible tragedy,'' Mavis said, noting that Costa had been "trying to provide for his family'' and had been "living a very upstanding life'' without any prior criminal record before the deadly crash.
But Mavis cited the "nature'' and "seriousness of the crime'' in imposing the state prison term in a courtroom packed with family members of Costa, including his wife of 22 years, and the Poscas.
Twelve-year-old Angelina Posca and her father, Angel George Posca, died in one of the cars struck when Costa's big rig barreled down a mountain road and into La Canada Flintridge. Family members and friends of the victims were seated in 16 chairs in the middle section of the courtroom Thursday.
More than a dozen wore white shirts with a photos of the victims. The shirts included the phrase, "Forever in Our Hearts."
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"I want to ask forgiveness for what has happened," Costa said. "I know that all of you hate me today, but I ask for all of your forgiveness. I would do everything possible to bring these two back, but that is not in my hands. This tragedy is like a nightmare. I promise I will never touch a truck again in my life."
Family members spoke at the sentencing. One of Angel Posca's daughters said, "My dad told me when I was learning to drive, I trust you. I just don't trust the other people. When I think of Angelina, it rips me to pieces. If anyone on this earth was robbed, it was her."
Giovanna Posca went on to describe her reaction after being notified of the deaths. She said she remembered seeing a television news report about the crash.
"They're gone. The blood drained away from my face. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that I would never see them again," Posca said. "At home, it was empty. Empty in spirit. It only had the remnants of my dad and Angelina's aura."
Costa was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in July, but jurors rejected charges of second-degree murder. Defense attorneys had argued for probation.
His attorney also asked that Costa be given one week before he is taken into custody, but prosecutors objected. The judge agreed with prosecutors, who said Costa has had time to prepare for a possible prison sentence.
A family friend read a statement following the sentence: "No sentence is going to bring them back. We are ok with the sentencing today. We can live with it."
Edward Murphy, Costa's attorney, said the sentence was "too harsh."
"On the other hand, I'm still very pleased with the result," said Murphy. "He was charged with murder, and he was facing life. There's a big difference between our options before we went to trial."
Costa's big-rig car hauler lost its brakes on a steep mountain highway descending into La Canada Flintridge in April 2009. Trucks normally take freeway routes around the rugged mountain range.
The truck crashed into cross-traffic and a building.
Prosecutors claim Costa ignored warnings about the steep grade and continued along the route even as his brakes were smoking.
An off-duty firefighter flagged down Costa and warned him of the truck's condition.
"We requested the maximum state prison time because we believed it was appropriate in light of all the facts that came out during the trial," said prosecutor Carolina Lugo. "He had so many warnings. Not only someone actually stopping him, but the nature of the road, the smoke billowing from his brakes."