A Mission Viejo man was convicted of homicide Wednesday for putting and killing an off-duty Costa Mesa fireplace captain whereas driving below the affect of a number of medication following a number of days of partying.
An Orange County Superior Courtroom jury discovered Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 27, responsible of second-degree homicide for driving off the facet of Alicia Parkway on a Saturday morning in November 2018 and fatally striking 44-year-old Mike Kreza, who was out for a morning bike trip.
Kreza was an 18-year veteran of Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue who lived in Rancho Santa Margarita along with his spouse and three younger daughters. His ardour for triathlons earned him the nickname “Ironman Mike.”
Throughout closing arguments in Scarpa’s trial, dozens of his household, mates and supporters – together with members of the fireplace departments management group – crammed a lot of the Santa Ana courtroom.
During the trial, Deputy District Lawyer Dan Feldman described Scarpa as having a “drug cupboard” of gear in his system when he killed Kreza, together with a mixture of downers and stimulants consisting of methamphetamine and several other prescription drugs. Scarpa admitted to having been up for 3 days partying at a Westminster residence, the prosecutor mentioned, and determined to drive house after blacking out for 18 hours and inflicting a scene.
“If you happen to get so excessive you go out behind the wheel and kill somebody, you find yourself precisely the place Mr. Scarpa is sitting,” Feldman advised jurors because the trial got here to a detailed.
Prosecutors opted to cost Scarpa with second-degree homicide slightly than a lesser rely of vehicular manslaughter below an “implied malice” concept that whereas Scarpa didn’t intend to kill he knowingly acted with a reckless disregard for human life, knew his actions had been harmful and did them anyway.
Protection Lawyer Rudy Loewenstein advised jurors that Scarpa’s actions didn’t rise to the extent of homicide. Scarpa felt he was able to driving, the protection legal professional mentioned, and believed the depressants he was taking could be counteracted by the stimulants.
“What this case actually boils right down to is Stephen didn’t intentionally act with aware disregard for human life,” Loewenstein mentioned.
Throughout an interview with investigators after the deadly crash, Scarpa admitted to having beforehand pushed whereas below the affect of comparable substances, together with when he reportedly crashed right into a parked automotive seven months earlier than hitting Kreza.
Scarpa described himself to the investigators as an addict, in line with recordings of his interview performed throughout the trial, and acknowledged having pushed whereas below the affect whereas his daughter, then 3 years outdated, was in his automotive. Requested how that made him really feel, Scarpa mentioned he was “disgusted with myself, as a result of I knowingly put my daughter at risk, and there aren’t any ifs, ands or buts that make that OK.”
At first of the trial, Scarpa’s legal professional described the collision as a “excellent storm,” since Scarpa had pushed greater than two dozen miles with out incident earlier than falling asleep and in a “split-second” veering into Kreza, who was passing by proper that second.
In arguing that Scarpa was well-aware of the hazards of impaired driving, prosecutors famous that he was chosen to participate within the anti-DUI “Each quarter-hour” program whereas at Esperanza Excessive Faculty, and later labored for a rehab middle, driving sufferers to conferences and appointments earlier than a relapse price him that job.
“The sufferer on this case mattered. He mattered to his family members, his co-workers on the Costa Mesa Hearth Division, the neighborhood he served, and he mattered to the Orange County District Lawyer’s Workplace,” District Lawyer Todd Spitzer mentioned in a press release following the decision. “Mike Kreza isn’t a statistic. He was a husband and he was a father to a few little women who must develop up with out him. No youngster ought to must be advised that their daddy isn’t coming house due to the egocentric determination of somebody to get behind the wheel whereas below the affect.”
Scarpa is scheduled to return to court docket for sentencing on Dec. 10. He faces 15 years to life in jail.
In line with testimony throughout his trial, Scarpa admitted to discovering a health care provider who would prescribe him medication not for a reliable medical situation, however with the intention to get excessive. That’s an obvious reference to Dzung Ahn Pham, a health care provider who’s dealing with federal expenses of illegally distributing oxycodone.
Prescription bottles with Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham’s identify on them had been reportedly present in Scarpa’s automobile after he struck Kreza, in line with court docket filings within the federal case.
Federal prosecutors allege that Pham “flooded” Southern California “with huge quantities of opioids and other dangerous narcotics by writing prescriptions for drugs he knew would be diverted to the street.”
Alongside along with his alleged hyperlink to the Scarpa case, federal prosecutors say medication illegally prescribed by Pham also ended up in the hands of a gunman who carried out the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, as well as at least five people who died of drug overdoses. Pham is awaiting trial.