The sentencing of a 19-year-old Sonora man who pleaded guilty to causing the death of a 33-year-old mother of five and injuring four of her children while driving under the influence during a traffic collision on Phoenix Lake Road in October was delayed on Tuesday because his attorney was not given adequate time to review a pre-sentence report from the Tuolumne County Probation Office.
Tuolumne County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Seibert also noted that the report may have contained an error in the sentencing guidelines of a single count against the defendant, Augustus Marinovich, which may have affected their recommendation that he receive 18 years in state prison.
Tuolumne County Public Defender Scott Gross, Marinovich's attorney, was not present in court on Tuesday.
Marinovich, who appeared over video from the Tuolumne County Jail in a striped black and white jumpsuit and blue surgical mask, was represented by Mark Smith, a deputy public defender.
Smith told the court Gross did not receive the report until Feb. 9 and did not have a chance to review it, so he planned to ask for a two-week delay.
"We were made aware in advance," said Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter, who agreed with the continuance.
Seibert also indicated the added time would give the prosecution a chance to check on the potential error. He said one of the counts identified a two-year sentence, but he believed the lowest possible sentence for that charge was four years, and the maximum 10 years.
If there was a mistake, Seibert said, the sentencing recommendation may need to be changed as well and an amended report would need to be given to Gross.
"You guys can talk about it, but I think that's an issue that needs to be addressed," Seibert said.
Hovatter said reviewing the report with Deputy District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke was a "priority" and that he would likely have an answer by the end of the day.
Marinovich pleaded guilty to all charges and enhancements against him on Jan. 22. At the time, Gross referred to it as a "tactical decision" to not prolong a difficult court process.
Marinovich was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death of Melissa Patania. He was additionally charged with felony driving under the influence causing injury, driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.14 to 0.15, and driving under the influence of alcohol and the drugs marijuana and Xanax.
There are four enhancements attached to the DUI charges for personally inflicting great bodily injury on each of the four injured children.
Marinovich faces up to 19 years in state prison. The plea does not set a sentence and was not an agreement between the parties.
Seibert set a sentencing date of 1:30 p.m. March 1, at which time he will determine the punishment.
Five women and one man were present in court on Tuesday in support of the victim's family, while an older couple sat away from them.
Marinovich was accused of being under the influence of Xanax (the prescriptive name for a benzodiazepine) when he crashed his westbound 2002 Toyota pickup into Patania's eastbound 1996 Suzuki SUV on Phoenix Lake Road near Bear Cub Drive at a high rate of speed on Oct. 26.
Marinovich crossed over the double-yellow lines and crashed head-on with the vehicle driven by Patania, killing her. The children sustained injuries such as concussions, lacerations, fractures and broken bones. The four children were taken by helicopter to UC Davis Medical Center following the collision.
Marinovich has been in the custody of the county jail since being released from Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, where he was treated for injuries following the collision.
His bail was set at $335,000 at the time of his arrest.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4526.