May 24 – Santa Barbara
On September 15, 2010, Priscilla Susman, 54, was driving eastbound on “the pass”, the California State Highway 154 connecting Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley—and the site of many spectacular car, truck, and motorcycle crashes throughout the years—when her 1996 Nissan Pathfinder slammed into another car traveling in her lane.
Both cars then careened out of control and into the path of three other oncoming vehicles, one of which was driven by a 73-year-old woman who subsequently died as a result of her injuries. Two of the impacted cars careened over mountain embankments, one caught fire, and two drivers were ejected from their vehicles. All other drivers were seriously injured in varying degrees, including Susman herself, who spent nearly three weeks recovering from major chest trauma at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
At the time of her arrival at the hospital, it was determined that Susman had a blood alcohol level of 0.36, nearly four times the legal limit. When she was released from the hospital following treatment of her injuries, Susman was taken into custody under an arrest warrant and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail.
Twenty-one months later, pursuant to Susman’s plea of nolo contendre, Judge George Eskin pronounced sentence upon Suskin, remanding her to one year in Santa Barbara County Jail with probation terms extending five years and 1,000 hours of community service to be performed following her incarceration, suspending a sentence of 11 years, which was imposed upon recommendation by Santa Barbara County Probation Department.
Susman’s public defender Michael Carty, in pleading for leniency, pointed out that Susman had been “clean and sober since the accident and has been active in her recovery from alcohol addiction.”
According to Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney Arnie Tolks, who had sought to have Susman sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in state prison, Susman is guilty of “taking people’s lives into her own hands with reckless disregard for the consequences.” In addressing the media following the Superior Court Hearing, Tolks said “this case cried out for state prison.”
Susman was promptly taken into custody in the courtroom to begin immediately serving her jail sentence.
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Booking
Santa Barbara Independent: Priscilla Susman Sentenced to One Year in Jail
Santa Maria Times: Susman sentenced to jail, probation