SANTA ROSA -- Convicted drunk driver Dylan Morse was resentenced to three years, four months, in state prison, a Sonoma County judge decided Wednesday.
Morse, the son of Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II, was originally sentenced to 12-years, four months in state prison on July 15, for causing a two car collision that killed 22-year-old Alexander Ruiz and injured two other people in Sonoma County earlier this year, near Cotati.
In October, Judge Kenneth Gnoss decided to recall Morse's previous 12-year, four-month prison sentence entirely.
Under state law, Gnoss had 120 days to reconsider his first sentence. He was allowed to either reinstate Morse's original sentence, or give him less time in prison. He could not, however give Morse more years in prison than he was originally sentenced to.
Before making his decision, Gnoss said he reconsidered the sentence, based on Morse's age and lack of a criminal background. Gnoss said he understood the sentence wouldn't please everyone. "To the families involved in this case, I'm really sorry," Gnoss said. "I know you wanted a longer sentence, but this is a state prison sentence."
Friends and family members of Ruiz's family were shocked by the judge's sentence. A teary-eyed Michael Ruiz, Alex Ruiz's father, quickly left the courtroom with his family.
"To impose 12 years, four months and then turn around and impose three years four months, that's cruel and unusual punishment (for the victims),” said Dominic Triglia, a friend of Ruiz's family.
Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, members of Morse's family shed tears and exchanged hugs.
Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said even though he was pleased about the reduced sentence, his heart was heavy with grief for the Ruiz family and the other victims. "We understand that there’s no joy in this for anyone, least of all us," Morse said. "Nothing changes the fact that my son made a horrific mistake, and shattered the lives of a good and decent family, the Ruiz’s, and has caused untold heartache and pain to the Spitzers."
California Highway Patrol investigators said the car Morse was driving, a 1998 Volvo, passed through a red light around 2:20 a.m. on Feb. 14, at the intersection of Stony Point Road and Highway 116. Morse smashed into a 1988 Honda driven by 22-year-old Alexander Ruiz of Oakland, killing him.
The crash seriously injured the passenger in Morse's car, 19-year-old Ryne Spitzer, who remains in a coma. Vanessa King, the 25-year-old passenger in Ruiz's car, suffered a broken arm and facial lacerations.
After Morse was first sentenced in July, Morse's attorney Chris Andrian claimed the 12-year sentence for his client, who had no prior record, was grossly unfair and disproportionate when compared to similar cases in Sonoma County.
Morse was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the state's legal limit, according to the CHP. Investigators said open beers and marijuana were found in the car.
An updated version of this story will appear in Thursday's Merced Sun-Star.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.