2.26.2010

TS - Whitmill, Flores take District Attorney's deal

Whitmill, Flores take District Attorney's deal

The two men whose street race ended with the death of a 9-year-old girl on State Route 299 last year pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter in Superior Court on Friday, after making deals with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office that the girl's family believes were far too lenient.

In October 2008, Jason Whitmill, 32, and Anthony Flores, 19, were racing at speeds over 100 mph when one of the vehicles -- driven by Whitmill -- crashed into a sport utility vehicle, killing Nicole Quigley and seriously injuring her mother, Debra Quigley.

In a press release, the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office said Whitmill entered guilty pleas to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury. Whitmill also admitted to three prior prison terms.

Flores entered guilty pleas to gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run.

Under the agreement, Whitmill will be sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison while Flores will receive three years in prison, according to the District Attorney's Office. Both are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 11.

Two others who were in Debra Quigley's vehicle, including Nicole Quigley's twin sister, were not seriously hurt.

Ken Quigley, father of Nicole Quigley, attended nearly every court appearance by Whitmill and Flores with many family members and friends. He expressed frustration that the District Attorney's Office never discussed the plea bargain with him or his family.

”We didn't find out until yesterday afternoon, late, that this was even in the works,” Quigley said on Friday. “We're very disappointed in how this worked out.”

He blamed District Attorney Paul Gallegos for settling instead of going for a stronger sentence.

”We have the most incompetent DA in the state,” Quigley said.

A call seeking comment from Gallegos was not returned by deadline Friday.

In a press release, the DA's office stated that it was a potential technicality that led to the decision to accept the pleas.

”The case has been delayed in going to trial as the defense has appealed the issue of defendant Whitmill's blood being drawn without his consent at a time when it was unknown who the driver of the vehicle was,” the release states.

Initially, Cheri Marcelli -- Whitmill's wife -- was listed as the driver in police reports but it was later changed to Whitmill.
Neither the California Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeals has ruled on the appeal, the DA's office said.

”Given that issue, the prosecution made the decision to accept the plea,” the release states. “The murder charge was dismissed in exchange for his plea to these counts with the agreement he would waive his appeal rights and be sentenced to the maximum term for each count.”

Flores also waived his right to appeal the case.

Quigley said he is not upset with the deputy district attorney who most recently prosecuted the case, Maggie Fleming, because she has only been on the case for two weeks. The case was “dropped into her lap,” he said.

”Maggie Fleming is excellent, she's brilliant,” Quigley said.

Franklin Zimring, a professor at that Boalt School of Law at the University of California, said there is no legal requirement for a DA to ask for the victim's family's input on plea deals or to keep them informed of developments.

”In large cities it's rare, but the smaller the town, the more visible cases are,” Zimring said. “And you have to remember ... it is an elected position.”

He said the practice of involving victims' families and keeping them informed varies from office to office and case by case.
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Related:
09
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Whitmill, Flores take District Attorney's deal 12/05/2009
Jury selection begins in trial of Whitmill, Flores 11/23/2009
Whitmill, Flores trial to proceed 11/10/2009
Motion denied to suppress blood sample in Whitmill case 11/06/2009
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Quigley family, friends remember 9-year-old Nicole 10/06/09
Nearly one year ago 10/01/2009
Case surrounding fatal crash on Highway 299 delayed 09/15/2009
Too many delays 9/10/09
Legal maneuvers slow case of men charged in 9-year-old's death 09/01/2009
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Evidence, charges unchanged against Whitmill 07/17/2009
Evidence for second degree murder charge? 06/19/2009
Thinking of the Quigleys 05/29/2009
Remember Nicole 05/08/2009
Looking forward: Quigley family watches and waits as case continues 05/17/2009
Defendants in 299 wreck plead not guilty 03/28/2009
Judge holds Whitmill, Flores to answer for 299 wreck 03/14/2009
Wife refuses to testify against husband at preliminary hearing 03/13/2009
Investigator testifies suspect in fatal crash changed story 03/12/2009
Officer testifies about 299 crash at prelim 03/11/2009
Preliminary hearing over Highway 299 wreck continues 03/10/2009
Superior Court delays hearing in 299 crash case 02/11/2009
Broken system 01/23/2009

08
Hug your children 12/03/2008
Vehicular manslaughter suspect has extensive criminal history 11/13/2008
Whitmill-Flores hearing continued 11/06/2008
Street race case waiting on CHP reports 10/23/2008
Authorities seek Mustang passenger for questioning 10/17/2008
Court document: Flores tried to 'subvert' investigation 10/16/08
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Authorities arrest driver of Mustang 10/10/2008
New driver named in fatal collision 10/09/2008
Search continues for other driver in fatal crash 10/08/2008
◼ ER Parolee named as driver in fatal collision
◼ TS New driver identified in fatal crash
◼ TS New driver named in fatal collision
TS Update: ☛ TS Police still looking for driver
◼ TS Driver sought: Suspected drag race on 299 results in fatal crash

Note: there were other articles in the Eureka reporter, but none are available online anymore.