Judge Donald Segerstrom Friday denied a motion for a new trial for a Sonora doctor convicted of triple manslaughter and sentenced him to five years, four months in prison.
Danny Anderson faced a maximum sentence of 10 years, four months. Segerstrom reduced the potential prison time on Anderson’s vehicular manslaughter charges because he had no criminal record.
Segerstrom said, "All he had to do was be less impatient and obey the law. Is 10 minutes of his time worth three lives?"
Segerstrom said the theme of the trial was no one was above the law.
"No one gets to take the law into his own hands. No one gets to decide the law doesn't apply to me."
Segerstrom said Anderson deserved prison time because of the “reckless” decision to pass two vehicles on J-59 which caused a collision between two other vehicles.
He said he could “still see” a photo of 16-year-old Trista Hoffman as he considered the sentencing.
Trista’s brother, Dillon Hoffman, survived the accident that also claimed his mother and spoke in the courtroom Friday.
“I felt lonely and lost for a long time after the accident occured. I wondered if I could go back, I could be the one driving.”
Dillon gasped and faltered before continuing. He looked up from the piece of paper he held toward Anderson, whose face was stricken, contorted and he seemed on the verge of tears.
“I hope you ponder over this for the rest of your life,” Dillon said. “Others will choose a different outcome based on your driving.”
After the hearing, Hoffman held out his arm and fidgeted with a “piece of the wreckage” that was still lodged under a purple scar on his wrist.
“It always reminds me of the family that I lost and that there will always be a piece of them with me.”
Anderson, 71, acknowledged the victims, but turned to them and said he believed from the start he did not cause the accident.
"I wish you God's blessing and God's comfort as you carry on," he said.
Dillon and Trista’s stepmother, Wendy Hoffman, read Danny Anderson the Hippocratic Oath at the start of her statement.
None of the victims died of “disease,” but “surely Dr. Anderson could have prevented their deaths,” she said.
Carolyn Case, Dillon and Trista’s grandmother, remembered taking Dillon’s hand in the days following the accident while he was in a Modesto-area hospital.
“They were two tenths from the turn off and they would have been safe from your path,” she said and looked to side of the packed courtroom where Anderson and his supporters were gathered.
“The Andersons need to stop lying and confess and put the wrongdoing where it belongs, on them,” she said.
After the hearing, Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg said she she had hoped for the maximum sentence because 10 years, 4 months “pales in comparison to the loss of the victims to their families.”
“But I think the court put a lot of thought into the sentencing, and we respect the court’s decision,” she said.
Roger Nuttall, Anderson’s attorney, said after the hearing that he planned to file a notice of appeal in an appellate court on the conviction, the denied motion for a new trial and the sentencing.
He said Anderson would be a better candidate for probation because of the contributions he could make to the community.
“If he is imprisoned, not only would he not be able to give back, the community will lose a very valuable source,” Nuttall said during the hearing.
The defense asserted that Anderson was not given a fair trial because his trial lawyer did not call an accident reconstruction expert who would have said another vehicle caused the collision. But Segerstrom said that assertion was contradicted by evidence and eyewitness testimony.
It would have taken Anderson six seconds to successfully pass according to the defense expert, but Segerstrom said a California Highway Patrol accident reconstruction team estimated it would have taken at least nine seconds. Six seconds would have required jet propulsion, the CHP said.
Segerstrom added that Anderson passing another vehicle at that location was "flat out crazy." He said he drove through the area after the trial.
Segerstrom pointed out that Dillon Hoffman testified he saw a white Acura coming toward the car his sister was driving.
“How do you explain that?” Segerstrom said.
Anderson passed a car just before Trista Hoffman, driving an SUV towards him, crashed into another car. He was in her lane and she was trying to evade his car.
The collision resulted in the death of Tina Hoffman, 51, and her daughter, Trista, in one car and Reinholt Eismann, 72, in the other.
Passengers Dillon Hoffman sustained two broken legs, and Annie Johnson sustained brain hemorrhages. The driver of the car Anderson passed, Dorothy Eismann, 66, sustained minor injuries.
Nuttall said the defense expert’s opinion corroborated a testimony from defense witness Christina Hodge that another vehicle driving southbound on J-59 caused the triple-fatal accident.
Accident reconstruction evidence from the California Highway Patrol showed Anderson crossed over the double yellow lines, causing a head-on collision between the two cars.
Anderson’s son, Erik Anderson, also stated that his father intended to testify, but Johnson persuaded him not to because “the District Attorney would be able to cross examine him and make him look bad in front of the jury.”
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg argued that she believed the prosecution evidence was “overwhelming and the jury agreed with that.”
Anderson has been held in the Tuolumne County Jail since Sept. 7 after being convicted by a jury on July 25 of three counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, reckless driving, hit and run, and the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police investigation for his role in causing an Oct. 21, 2016 accident on J-59.
Anderson was issued a total of 269 days time served, approximately double the amount of time he has served in the Tuolumne County Jail following his conviction.
He was sentenced to four years, eight months on the vehicular manslaughter charges, three years on the hit and run charge and one year for obstructing a police investigation.
They are to be served concurrently to the vehicular manslaughter. The reckless driving charge added a sentence of 8 months to the total.
Segerstrom said he received approximately 35 statements supporting the victims and 84 statements supporting Anderson. He read the names of each of the letter writers in court.