John Giumarra III waits during a conference with Judge Judith K. Dulcich and attorneys during his sentencing hearing earlier this month. 

The civil trial for John Giumarra III will begin in January, and a Kern County judge on Tuesday said attorneys can now begin questioning Giumarra since the criminal case against him ended earlier this month. 

The trial is expected to last seven days and is scheduled to begin Jan. 14.

Giumarra, 49, was sentenced to 90 days in jail — which he could serve as work release — after pleading no contest to three misdemeanor charges in a crash that killed bicyclist Angela Holder. His blood alcohol content was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit. 

Lawsuits were filed on behalf of Holder's family by attorney Benton McKnight and attorneys at Rodriguez & Associates. Joel T. Andreesen of Rodriguez & Associates represents Holder's four oldest children, and McKnight — of the firm McKnight, McKnight, McKnight & McKnight — represents the youngest child. 

In the criminal case, police had requested felony DUI charges, but District Attorney Lisa Green said those charges were not appropriate because Giumarra didn't commit an "independent unlawful act" other than driving while impaired that caused Holder's death.

Prosecutors did file a felony hit-and-run charge, but a judge reduced it to a misdemeanor. The felony could have resulted in up to four years in prison. 

The reduced charge led to speculation that Giumarra, as a member of a prominent farming family, received favorable treatment due to his position in the community. 

His attorneys, however, argued he never attempted to flee. They said Giumarra was unsure as to what exactly had happened due in part to poor lighting conditions and to another SUV blocking his view when the collision occurred. 

Around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 of last year, Giumarra was driving in the 1600 block of Golden State Avenue when he collided with Holder. She rode across the No. 2 and No. 1 lanes, directly in his path, court documents say.

Giumarra slowed into a nearby parking lot on F Street after the collision, parked briefly, and then began making his way back to the scene, said H.A. Sala, Giumarra's attorney in the criminal trial along with Jeremy Brehmer. 

Holder, 32, died the next day at Kern Medical Center. Tests showed high levels of methamphetamine in her system. 

In 2015, Giumarra pleaded no contest to a "wet-and-reckless" charge after police found him under the influence in a vehicle parked in the driveway of his home. In 1987, he was convicted of reckless driving.

(2) comments

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

There is a death penalty for civil, right?

Jerry Todd

The Californian is apoplectic over having a local man to drive into the ground instead of just picking on whatever the Washington Post tells them to.

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