Joselito Meza during his arraignment in 2015. 

Casey Christies/ The Californian

A Bakersfield man was found guilty Wednesday of striking a friend with his car, killing him, following a drunken fight in 2015.

Joselito Meza, 27, faces up to 15 years in prison.

Meza clasped his hands in front of his face and closed his eyes before the verdicts were read. Upon being found guilty, he laid his head on the table. Shortly afterward, he sat up and began crying.

A jury of seven women and five men found Meza guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony hit-and-run and related charges.

At an earlier court hearing, Meza rejected a plea agreement that would have sent him to prison for five years.

The case was "highly emotionally charged" as Meza and the victim were close friends and had lived together, prosecutor Garrett Rice said afterward. 

Before the verdict was read, Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II warned family members on both sides that he wouldn't tolerate any outbursts, and anyone who disrupted proceedings would be removed from the courtroom. 

Several people sniffled as the verdicts were read, but the audience otherwise remained quiet. 

Meza's lawyer, David A. Torres, called the case a tragedy for both sides as the victim's family has lost a loved one and Meza's family will be visiting him at a state prison. 

"(Meza) is extremely remorseful for what happened on that particular evening," Torres said. 

Police said Meza was "highly intoxicated" when officers contacted him at 2:40 a.m. Feb. 1 at White Lane and Buena Vista Road. His blood alcohol content is estimated to have been between 0.19 and 0.25 percent, far above the legal limit of 0.08. 

Meza told police he had been carjacked, but there was no evidence a carjacking occurred, police said. 

Officers found Meza's vehicle in a nearby parking lot a short time later. They discovered it had damage consistent with striking a pedestrian, and they followed a trail of fluid from the vehicle to northbound Buena Vista Road.

There they found 22-year-old Miguel Aldaco dead in the center median.

Rice commended Bakersfield police investigators, who determined Meza and Aldaco had been drinking together at the Firehouse Restaurant at 7701 White Lane. They later argued and became involved in a fistfight, after which Meza got in his car and Aldaco began walking toward him.

Aldaco was standing in the center median as Meza drove along the roadway then turned the car in his direction, hitting him. He fled the scene and later reported the fabricated carjacking account. 

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