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Bakersfield man sentenced to prison in fatal drunken driving crash

After many years in the legal system, Superior Court Judge John Oglesby said, he tends to be skeptical of human nature.

Regarding Jade Marley Flores, however, he has no doubts.

The 19-year-old was blameless, Oglesby said, in the crash that took his life in March of last year. He and two friends had gone to a party but left soon afterward after deciding they weren't comfortable there.

It was while they were heading home that another motorist, Huriel Machuca, ran a red light and smashed into their vehicle. Flores died at Kern Medical Center about three hours later. 

Machuca, who was driving with a blood-alcohol content of slightly more than twice the legal limit, was sentenced Thursday to 12 years and eight months in prison after he was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI charges.

Oglesby also ordered him to pay roughly $96,000 in restitution to the Flores family, plus additional fines and fees. 

While noting the large number of letters the court received in support of Machuca, the judge said the defendant's statements to probation show he still hasn't recognized alcohol is the underlying cause of his problems.

Machuca was able to speak coherently to officers after the crash despite having a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent. That kind of tolerance indicates he has spent a considerable time amount of time engaging in heavy drinking, Oglesby said. 

"This is a tragedy that has fallen on two families based on the actions of one man," the judge said.

Prosecutor Kim Richardson became emotional as she read a statement written by Flores' mother, Ariana Flores, expressing the loss of her son, a "handsome, charming young man" who was attending Bakersfield College and planned to transfer to a university down south to study to become a pediatrician. 

"The unbearable pain is always there," Ariana Flores wrote. 

Before he was sentenced, Machuca apologized to the Flores family and to the families of the two men injured in the crash. He said he never intended to hurt anyone, and he wishes he could take it back. 

Machuca, 28, drove a black GMC Yukon east on Panama Lane early March 26, 2016, speeding past vehicles and making abrupt lane changes, according to court documents.

He failed to stop at a red light and smashed into the silver Chevy Silverado carrying Flores and his friends as it made a left turn from Panama Lane onto Colony Street, the documents said. 

When questioned by police, Machuca said he drank two 16-ounce Bud Light beers, one at 4 p.m. and another at 6 p.m. He later gave conflicting statements about how much he had drunk.

His statements to police suggested he realized he was intoxicated.

"I know I'm not going to pass (my) tests," the documents said he told an officer.

Asked to clarify, Machuca said, "The blood and breath tests."

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