Hit-and-run driver who killed National City man gets surprise sentence from judge

Grandmother asks for leniency for Efrain Black
Posted at 9:28 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 00:28:30-04

Tears poured down Efrain Black's face as he waited to learn his fate for running down an elderly National City man and leaving the scene.

Black could have spent the rest of the year behind bars for the February 13 accident.  Instead, a San Diego Superior Court Judge ordered him to get back to work and get back to taking care of his ailing grandmother.

Black was driving home from work just after dark when he swerved to avoid hitting a dog. Instead, he hit 81-year-old Robert Gustafson. Gustafson's lifeless body was thrown more than 20 feet. 

Black kept driving.

Gustafson was a popular lawyer, veteran and community activist, beloved by the community. He was also a grandfather and a mentor who liked to help troubled young men.

Black didn't know Gustafson, but he had his share of troubles. Both parents died when he was young.  Black was raised by his grandmother.

The next day, after learning the man he'd hit had died, Black turned himself in to National City Police.

He later pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and knew he could spend months, even years behind bars.

That didn't happen.

Black's attorney read letters aloud during his sentencing. Those letters came from Gustafson's family. They said Gustafson would not have wanted the 21-year-old to have his life destroyed because of the accident.

"It is my hope that Mr. Black serve the minimum amount of time in the San Diego County Jail," his sister wrote.

Black's family members fought back tears as they told the Judge Francis Devaney they pray for Gustafson's family every day.

“Our family is so sorry for the heartache that they’re going through," said Scott Black. "And we pray for them on a daily basis to uplift their spirits so they can get through this hard time."

Black's sister, Catalina, described her brother this way: "He's a very loving, caring, whole-hearted person, and what he did was really shocking, and it wasn't like him." 

Black read a written statement apologizing for leaving the scene of the accident, calling his actions selfish, and telling the judge he takes full responsibility for his actions.

Judge Devaney told Black had he stayed at the accident scene, he probably would never have been criminally charged.

"He was a scared young kid when he left the scene," the judge said. "Leaving the scene didn't cause the death, it was simply a lack of responsibility."

Judge Devaney sentenced Black to 120 days of time already served and 3 years of probation.

According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Who's in Jail website, Efrain Black is no longer in their custody.