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Defense gives final arguments in case of Navy man accused in deadly Coronado Bridge crash

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Posted at 1:15 PM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 16:15:32-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Closing arguments wrapped up Thursday morning in the case against a Navy petty officer accused of driving drunk off the Coronado Bridge, landing on top of a crowd at Chicano Park and killing four people.

Richard Sepolio sat quietly listening to his defense attorney, Paul Pfingst, as he gave his final arguments to the jury.

Pfingst said his client was not driving drunk or recklessly on Oct. 15, 2016, when his truck careened off the Coronado Bridge.

“He got on to the Coronado Bridge with two lanes, at [the] 65 miles [per hour] region, and was aware that there’s a merge point up ahead that’s not a very safe place to be,” Pfingst explained.

“He decided to speed up and get onto the left as to not have an accident. The people call that a disregard for life; we call that an attempt by a good man to go home and do it in a safe way by avoiding a merge,” the defense attorney added.

Pfingst argued that his client has a flawless traffic record and would never intentionally drive in a reckless manner.

“All the days he’s driven, all the hours everything else, we’re questioning four seconds," said Pfingst.

Sepolio is on trial for more than a dozen felony counts, including driving under the influence, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and reckless driving.

“He had no malice or ill will toward anyone,” said Pfingst.

After a brief break, the prosecution will have a chance for rebuttal, then the case will go to the jury for deliberations.

During the prosecution's closing arguments Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright made the case that Sepolio was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.

Bright also said he was driving recklessly by speeding up to 80 mph and arguing with his girlfriend on the phone.

“Death fell down on them from above because this defendant decided to drive impaired, irritated and impatient,” said Bright.

The crash killed two couples, Cruz and Annamarie Contreras, and Andre Banks and Francine Jimenez, who were at Chicano Park for an event.

Family members of the victims have traveled from out of town and packed the courtroom since the beginning of the trial.

At the end of closing arguments and the rebuttal, a jury will have to decide whether Sepolio was driving drunk and recklessly at the time of the crash.

If found guilty on all charges, he could face more than 23 years in prison.