Santa Rosa, CA – March 9, 2020 – Defendant Javier
Rodriguez-Lopez, 21 years old of Pittsburg, CA, was sentenced earlier
today by Sonoma County Court Commissioner Troye Shaffer to serve one month in
jail and spend three years on probation after having pled no contest in
February to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and misdemeanor driving without
a license. Rodriguez-Lopez was also ordered to complete 200 hours of community
service involving either marine sciences education, or by speaking to young
drivers in high schools about the dangers of driving while tired and fatigued.
Rodriguez-Lopez had faced a maximum punishment of 1 year in the county jail.
The charges resulted from an
early morning crash in April of 2018 on Lakeville Highway and South McDowell
Boulevard in Petaluma. Rodriguez-Lopez’s Chevy Silverado veered approximately
23 feet into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a vehicle occupied by
noted biologist Dr. Susan Williams. Five other vehicles were also involved in
the collision. Evidence showed Rodriguez-Lopez was speeding, fell asleep at the
wheel, and did not have a valid driver’s license.
Between 2000 and 2010 Dr.
Williams was a decorated biologist and Director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine
Laboratory in Bodega Bay. She was also a distinguished professor at the UC
Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and a key advisor to California
lawmakers working to protect coastal waters from oil and gas development.
During her career Dr. Williams conducted extensive research into how ocean
health is connected to the wellbeing of coastal communities and the world at
During the sentencing hearing
Commissioner Shaffer relayed to the defendant, “Our young people are often told
about the dangers of drinking and driving or texting and driving, but they are
often not informed that being too tired is also an appropriate reason to pull
over. Given your experience which resulted in this traffic loss of life I think
you are in a good position to relay that message.”
The case was prosecuted by
Deputy District Attorney Matt Hobson. Mario Giomi of Petaluma Police Department
headed the investigation