LOS ANGELES (AP) — A driver who killed an Italian honeymooner and injured 17 pedestrians and peddlers when he barreled down the popular Venice Beach Boardwalk two years ago was sentenced Friday to 42 years to life in prison after a judge said his apology rang hollow and failed to take responsibility for his crimes.
Nathan Campbell, 40, a drifter from Colorado, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of newlywed Alice Gruppioni, 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving an accident scene.
Campbell spoke clearly and without emotion as he read a handwritten statement that said no words would ever express his sorrow for the nightmare he caused for so many Aug. 3, 2013. While acknowledging he had caused emotional and physical trauma, Campbell said the “horrible accident” was unintentional.
“Every minute of every day I wish that the horrible things that happened on Aug. 3, 2013, had not,” he wrote on yellow-lined legal paper. “I wish I could have stopped instead of panicking, causing pain to so many people.”
Judge Kathryn Solorzano said the horror he inflicted was no accident.
“Everything you did on that date is criminal behavior,” she said. “You had this deadly weapon that you were manipulating. All you had to do was stop.”
Campbell was gunning for a drug dealer who ripped him off when he steered his dark blue Dodge Avenger around poles and accelerated through one of Los Angeles’ top tourist attractions, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said in his sentencing memo.
“If not for sheer luck, more people could have been killed,” Avila said. “Defendant created chaos and a scenario of great violence which to this date has not only traumatized the victims, but also witnesses who observed from a distance.”
Witnesses heard a revving engine, and one man said Campbell was smiling as he picked people off, sending them airborne. There were screams of terror and cries of pain, but no one reported hearing a horn or any warning from the driver.
Campbell testified that he meant to shift the car into reverse and panicked when it went forward. Defense lawyer James Cooper III said Campbell had been drinking earlier in the day and that he swerved to avoid pedestrians.
Nancy Martinez used a cane as she hobbled to the witness stand at an August hearing to describe the lasting impact of her injuries. She said her life had been completely changed that day and she’s no longer able to dance, run or work.
“It’s been two years now, and I’m still in pain with the trauma,” she said through an interpreter. She said she worried about going out, “fearful that I’ll be hit again.”
The first person injured in the rampage, Judith Fox, recalled how Campbell struck an ATM machine that came “flying through the air.” It knocked her to the ground, and she banged the back of her head.
“I will forever feel that this person was on a mission to maim and kill innocent people,” Fox said.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)