EL CAJON - A woman who was drunk when she lost control of her car, triggering a series of crashes on Interstate 8 near Alpine that killed two people, was sentenced Monday to nine years in state prison.
Sunny Hall, 31, pleaded guilty in December to two counts each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the June 11, 2012, deaths of 25- year-old substitute teacher and UCSD graduate student Angela August of Alpine and 59-year-old Calexico teacher Jimmy Arevalo of El Centro.
More than two dozen supporters of the August family showed up in court wearing buttons with a photo of Angela August and the words "For the love of Angela."
A hush fell over the courtroom when Dawn August addressed the judge.
"I have waited 630 days to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of my only beloved daughter, Angela. Her story needs to be told and heard. Angela was a bright, shiny, free-spirited star, artist and scholar," she said.
Angela August was just days away from graduating with honors from the University of California San Diego when she rolled her car in the median of Interstate 8 near Alpine. Moments later, Jimmy Arevalo stopped his car and called 911 to help.
"He was not only a victim, but he was a hero, trying to rescue our daughter who was pinned in her car from a minor rollover. Instead of celebrating her graduation on June 16, we had to bury our only daughter. Our family had never endured so much pain," said Dawn August, with her family at her side.
August and Arevalo both died at the scene.
She added, "The facts are that Miss Hall plowed down Angela and Jimmy at a high speed without even braking or swerving while everyone else that was on the freeway that morning was stopping to assist. She turned her boyfriend’s 4,000 pound vehicle into a weapon of mass destruction."
Hall's blood-alcohol level was measured at .15 percent after the accident, nearly double the legal limit for driving, according to Deputy District Attorney Douglas Rose.
Hall's criminal past includes convictions for drug possession, theft, forgery, escape, bail jumping and four convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Dawn August told the judge she believes Hall's nine-year sentence is too short.
"Miss Hall will only have to serve 50 percent of her nine-year plea-bargained sentence, which works out to four and a half years. That's 2.25 years for each life that she took… She handed Angela and Jimmy a death sentence, and we are serving a life sentence without our loved ones. This is very slim justice for the utter devastation that she caused," she said.
Hall was seen sobbing even before the hearing began. She read a written statement that said, in part:
"There is no amount of apologizing that I can do to make what happened right. I know that. It will never be right, and as much as I have hoped and prayed, there is no way I can take it back and bring back two lives that are gone forever. I don't think that there are words that can express how deeply I regret what I have done, and so, I am left with those three words that I find so terribly inadequate … I am sorry. I wish so badly that I had made better choices that night."
Every single day since the accident has been a nightmare for me, a living hell from the second I wake up in the morning until the moment when I finally manage to fall asleep at night. The worst part of it all has been seeing the pain that this has caused the loved ones of those who lost their lives. The thought that I am responsible for that is agonizing. Truly. The victim's friends and families see me as some kind of a monster … I am not a monster. I am a woman who made a terrible mistake, and I struggle each and every day to find a way to live with what I have done."
After reading the statement, Hall turned to face the August family. Dawn August later said she felt the gesture was insincere, adding that Hall has never shown any remorse until now.
Angela August's grandfather, a retired Army sergeant major who wore his uniform and medals to court, said he is angry about Hall's sentence.
"If it had been in Arizona, she'd have got booked and locked up and they'd throw the key away," said James Brockman, who lives in Arizona. "This state is real chicken when it comes to giving somebody something for killing two people. She should have been in jail and rotted there as far as I'm concerned."