Last week Thursday, Bani Duarte of San Clemente was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison for a fatal car crash she caused back on March 29, 2018. Duarte’s Hyundai Sonata had crashed into a Toyota Corolla that was stopped at a red light in Huntington Beach. In the Toyota, there were four teenagers from Las Vegas who had come to Southern California for spring break.
Due to the impact, the Toyota rammed into a pole and the vehicle caught fire. Three of the teens were killed, and the fourth was seriously injured. Reports stated that Duarte’s BAC was close to 0.3% – over three times the legal limit – and that she was driving approximately 80 mph on a 45 mph stretch.
A jury trial found Duarte guilty of three counts of second-degree murder and one count of driving under the influence causing great bodily injury.
In the courtroom, the Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer listened to close to four hours of victim impact statements and statements from the defendant’s team.
Duarte herself made a statement to the victim’s families, admitting that she hadn’t been in the right state of mind when the accident occurred. Back then, she hadn’t thought much into her actions and the consequences from them. She stated that “I am changed, and I am remorseful and very regretful of the actions I made… I know no words I say will bring closure to this tragedy. I apologize for this selfish decision.”
During the course of the trial, Judge Paer noted that Duarte had a prior DUI arrest that resulted in her going to jail. In that previous situation, Duarte was booked, her car impounded, and her license suspended. Judge Paer concluded his sentencing by saying, “Hopefully this will send a message to this community that this behavior won’t be tolerated.”