Air Force vet receives five years in Pacific Beach man's La Jolla traffic death
Published - 04/28/15 - 08:23 AM | 4961 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A packed courtroom watched the April 27 sentencing of a disabled Air Force veteran to five years in state prison for killing a Pacific Beach man in a crash on La Jolla Village Drive while she was under the influence of prescription drugs.

Attorneys for Soranon Booppanon, 40, asked that she be placed on probation in a veteran’s program and presented some top Air Force officials who testified on her behalf.

Booppanon pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter of George Matteson, 77, killed instantly on Oct. 23, 2013 when Booppanon ran a red light and struck two cars and a truck at the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Genesee Avenue. She also pleaded guilty to being under the influence of drugs and injuring Betty Matteson, 74, George's wife.

She was also fined $2,174.

Defense attorney G. Cole Casey told San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Walsh that Booppanon took the pain medications and tranquilizers the night before and that she was following the instructions of her Veterans Administration doctors. She was on her way to the Veterans Administration hospital in La Jolla when she ran the red light.

Walsh said Booppanon should have known that the medications' instructions stated that a person should not use them and drive. Walsh said she put others in danger, and he denied probation because a death occurred.

Deputy District Attorney Mackenzie Harvey urged seven years in prison, stating that Booppanon was driving at 68 miles an hour in a 45-mile-an-hour zone. Booppanon, Harvey said, showed “total disregard for public safety.

“Our position is this is not an accident,” Harvey, said, adding Booppanon was playing the “blame game” by citing her medical problems and the suicides of two co-workers.

Casey said Booppanon left the Air Force after 14 years and was declared 100 percent disabled because she had taken an inoculation that resulted in liver disease. Casey said she also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Retired Brig. Gen. Walter Jones told the judge that Booppanon was once responsible for cruise missile control command at an air force base. Col. Burnett Peters, who said he flew missions in Bosnia and Iraq, said Booppanon was his designated second officer. Both men said she didn’t know her medications affected her driving.

Casey unsuccessfully urged Walsh to suspend a prison term and allow her to be admitted to a veterans residential program. He said she has no prior record and that alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

Booppanon did not testify at her trial.

Due to her disabilities, Booppanon might be housed at a prison medical facility.

Walsh allowed her to remain free on own recognizance until May 4, setting a hearing for May 19 to determine credits.

– Neal Putnam

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