Jay Leiderman is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura, California. He co-authored the first ever book on the legal defense of California medical marijuana crimes and has been called the “Hacktivist’s Advocate” for his work defending those accused of computer crimes. He has been recognized and won awards for going above and beyond to represent clients accused of all sorts of crimes. Jay frequently lectures around the state and nation on various criminal defense topics.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Santa Paula man gets probation for drunken-driving crash that killed fellow officer By Raul Hernandez Posted May 10, 2013
Santa Paula man gets probation for drunken-driving crash that killed fellow officer By Raul Hernandez Posted May 10, 2013 A judge Friday gave a probation sentence to a former volunteer Santa Paula reserve officer involved in a drunken-driving crash that killed his police-officer girlfriend.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy also ordered a hearing for Thursday after the probation department files another report with recommendations on probation terms for Christopher Blankenship, 45, of Santa Paula.
The judge rejected prosecutor Michael Lief’s recommendation that Blankenship receive the maximum sentence of four years in prison for the death of Kimberley Hemminger, 33, of Oxnard in a July 22 off-duty crash.
The judge said she doesn’t subscribe to the belief that police officers should be treated more harshly in court than others facing similar drunken-driving charges, noting this was an off-duty incident.
“They are human, and they do make mistakes in their human lives,” said Murphy.
Lief and the victim’s family declined to comment after the sentencing.
Murphy suspended a two-year prison sentence for Blankenship and ordered probation instead but said she could still give him a year behind bars after Thursday’s hearing.
The probation department prepared the sentencing report for Friday’s sentencing and recommended prison time but didn’t specify the number of years, according to Lief.
In March, Blankenship pleaded guilty to vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated and admitted causing great bodily injury and using a deadly weapon, the vehicle, to commit the crime.
On the night of July 22, Blankenship apparently couldn’t negotiate a right-hand curve and lost control of the vehicle on South Mountain Lookout Road near Coyote Canyon Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. The vehicle spun out and rolled over.
Hemminger, a full-time Santa Paula police officer, was partially ejected and pinned under the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other women in the vehicle had minor injuries. Blankenship was not injured.
None of the four was wearing a seat belt, according to the CHP.
Lief said he believes Blankenship used his law enforcement knowledge to try to cover up the amount of alcohol he had consumed by saying he was drinking beer right after the crash. Witnesses, however, said Blankenship never left their sight and they never saw him drink beer after the crash, Lief told the court.
“It’s wildly shocking, especially in light of the fact that he is a police officer,” said Lief.
Blankenship’s lawyer, Jay Leiderman, made a lengthy argument to the judge, urging her to give Blankenship probation because he has no criminal record and for 14 years worked for Santa Paula police as a volunteer reserve officer.
Leiderman said his client, who has “deep and profound remorse,” wanted to plead guilty as soon as he could.
“He is a good person. He did a bad thing,” Leiderman told the judge.
Leiderman said alcohol was a definite factor in the incident, but so were a bad road and lack of seat belt use.
Blankenship “went to the scene and made a promise to Kim and God that he would never have another beer,” said Leiderman.
Blankenship’s friends, including police officers, were in court to support him and wrote letters to the court, Leiderman pointed out.
Two Hemminger family members made victim-impact statements to the court.
Hemminger’s mother, Sharon, asked the judge to sentence Blankenship to the maximum sentence, describing her daughter as a woman who loved her family, walking her dog, horseback riding, ice cream and just being a police officer.
A large photograph of the victim with her horse was placed in the courtroom well during the sentencing.
“I miss her smile. I miss her voice,” said the mother. “I miss our long talks. I could go on about how much I miss her and how much I wish she was still here.”
Hemminger was a five-year veteran of the Santa Paula Police Department and a member of the Ventura County mounted unit, according to officials.
Santa Paula officers unhappy with former reserve's sentence for fatal crash
Santa Paula police officers disagreed Friday with the
sentence a judge gave a former volunteer reserve officer involved in a
drunken-driving crash that killed a fellow officer.
think it is a slap in the face to law enforcement,” said Sgt. Jeremy Watson,
president of the Santa Paula Police Officers Association.
Court Judge Patricia Murphy on Thursday sentenced Christopher Blankenship, 45,
of Santa Paula, to five years of probation, gave him a suspended two-year
prison sentence and ordered him to serve a year in jail.
Paula Interim Police Chief Ismael Cordero said while he respected the judge’s
sentence, he and nearly all his police officers disagree with it.
don’t support him at all,” Cordero said of Blankenship.
March, Blankenship pleaded guilty to vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated in
connection with the death of his girlfriend and Santa Paula officer Kimberly
Hemminger, 33, of Oxnard, in a July 22 off-duty crash. He also admitted causing
great bodily injury and using a deadly weapon, the vehicle, to commit the crime.
said Blankenship was never remorseful and brought shame and disgrace to Santa
Paula and police officers everywhere.
didn’t reach out and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s what really upset a lot of people,”
and Watson described Hemminger as a police officer with a bright future and a
person who cared about people and the community. They said law enforcement, the
community and especially her family felt the loss of this good officer.
police department took a big hit in losing her,” Watson said.
the night of the crash, Blankenship apparently couldn’t negotiate a right-hand
curve and lost control of the vehicle on South Mountain Lookout Road near
Coyote Canyon Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. The vehicle
spun and rolled over.
was partially ejected and pinned under the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at
the scene. Two other women in the vehicle suffered minor injuries. Blankenship
was not injured.
one was wearing a seat belt, according to the patrol.
a hearing earlier this month, Murphy said she believes police officers
shouldn’t be treated more harshly than others because they are humans and make
Watson disagrees with Murphy, saying law enforcement officers should be held to
a higher standard.
Michael Lief had argued in court that Blankenship deserved the maximum sentence
of four years because he used his law enforcement training to try to avoid
said Blankenship tried to cover up the amount of alcohol he had consumed by
saying he was drinking beer right after the crash. Witnesses, however, said he
never left their sight and they never saw him drink a beer after the crash,
Lief told the court.
probation department also recommended a prison sentence for Blankenship.
Leiderman, Blankenship’s lawyer, made a lengthy argument to the judge last
week, urging her to give Blankenship probation because he had no criminal
record and had worked 14 years as a volunteer reserve officer for the Santa
Paula Police Department.
told the judge his client was deeply remorseful and said he isn’t “the monster”
others portray him as. He said alcohol was a definite factor in the crash, but
so were a bad road and lack of seat belts.
hope this closed chapter brings some degree of peace to the victim’s family,”
Leiderman said Friday.