Singh sentenced to 15 years to life in fatal DUI in Ventura — (Ventura County Star)

SSRI Ed note: Responsible, kind businessman takes antidepressants, gets drunk, speeds around town in his car, has 3 accidents, kills cyclist, remembers nothing. Gets 15 yrs.

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Ventura County Star

Posted: Dec. 12, 2012

By Raul Hernandez

Nick Haverland had curiosity the size of a mountain, touched many lives and wanted to get a college degree and cure cancer, his family and friends told a judge Wednesday.

The judge also heard from the family of Satnam Singh, a businessman who pleaded guilty last month to hitting Haverland while driving while intoxicated in 2011.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young, who said he received more than 100 letters in support of Singh, also heard from his friends and relatives, who apologized to Haverland’s family and told Young how their family had been affected by the tragedy.

After hearing from both sides in a sentencing that took more than two hours, Young sentenced Singh to 15 years to life for killing the 20-year-old bicyclist.

At his trial last month, Singh, 50, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving under the influence, causing serious bodily injury.

Young said Singh must first serve two years in prison for the DUI conviction before he can start serving the sentence of 15 years to life.

Singh was involved in a series of crashes that began when he was driving a Hummer west on Telegraph Road at La Jolla Street in Ventura on May 11, 2011.

In the first crash, the vehicle struck a woman and her teenage daughter who were riding bikes. Singh continued west and hit a pickup with a family inside that had stopped for a red light near Petit Avenue and Telegraph, prosecutor Richard Simon said.

Singh struck Haverland near Telegraph and Mara Avenue. Haverland and a friend were bicycling to Ventura College. The friend wasn’t injured.

Simon said Singh never stopped after causing the three accidents and drove away at speeds of more than 90 mph. Singh had a blood-alcohol level of 0.39 percent, nearly five times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, Simon said in court.

Singh’s lawyer, David Lehr, said Singh had taken “an accidental dose of medication” for depression on the day of the incident, was in a stupor and couldn’t remember the crashes.

“He’s truly sorry,” Lehr said.

Singh, of Ventura, owns a Santa Paula liquor store. He had a Punjabi translator in court.

Haverland’s parents, Jim and Susan Haverland, and others gave victim impact statements about a relative who died too soon, had much to offer and touched many lives.

Jim Haverland described finding his son lying in a “small ball in the gutter covered by a blanket.”

Susan Haverland recalled going to the crime scene and seeing her dead son.

“I wanted Nick to change the world, but what I am left with instead is the most hideous memory of my life: arriving at the scene of an accident just after the police had placed a sheet over his body, pleading and pleading with the police to just let me lie down beside my boy as the life flowed out of him,” she told Young.

“I have no pity for you. But I have pity for your family,” Susan Haverland said.

She said Nick Haverland planned to attend the University of Hawaii and get a degree in ethnobotany.

“He was going to find a cure for cancer in the rain forest,” she told Young.

Singh’s mother and brother described how his conviction had affected their lives and apologized to Haverland’s family.

Singh’s mother, Gurmitt Kaur, sat in the front row, a few yards from her son.

“He’s not that kind of a person, but what happened I am very sorry about it,” she said, crying. “But he didn’t do it deliberately. It was an accident. I am very, very sorry.”

Singh’s wife, Manpreet Beins, told Young her husband was having bouts of depression and was taking medication for it.

“He has never done anything wrong to anyone,” she said. “Please show some kindness to him. We are people who believe in God. We would never kill someone.”

After the sentencing, Susan Haverland said Singh’s family members are also victims, adding that she was moved when Singh’s mother hugged her after the sentencing.