By Fiona Davis
SACRAMENTO, CA – In a DUI sentencing hearing here this week, a defendant pleaded no contest, admitting to the great bodily injury to several individuals in exchange for a lower sentence—before the plea he told his parole officer that he was wrongfully blamed.
“I feel really bad for what happened, but don’t believe it was my fault,” Benoni Grozav was quoted as saying.
Grozav was charged with several felony DUI charges, including “caus[ing] bodily injury” to another person, after he allegedly caused a freeway collision with a blood alcohol level of .28.
In an impact statement read by Deputy District Attorney Colin Stephenson during the sentencing hearing, one of the victims detailed the day of the accident.
The victim stated that he had been driving in the far left lane of the 99 freeway with his daughter and grandchildren, on the way to a family birthday party, when Grozav drove into the front of their car.
The impact of the defendant’s car caused the victim’s vehicle to crash into and bounce off the concrete barrier before partially spinning out of control.
With shards of glass falling into the car, and three axles bent, the victim then drove across five lanes of traffic in order to get fully off the road while in a semi-conscious state that he described as “a miracle,” noting, “It was all I could do to keep my eyes open and drive.”
The testifying victim also described the long term and continuous impact the car crash had had on him and his family. He described being bruised “black and blue” shortly after the accident, sustaining a concussion that made his vision and mind “not clear for months.”
He said injuries he suffered in his back, hip, and limbs continue to cause him “crippling pain” that impacts his personal life and career, adding “Benoni forever changed my quality of life because of the injuries caused by the accident.”
For the other passengers in the car, the victim stated that his daughter had sustained similar types of bruising and injuries, and that his grandchildren were left with several small cuts across their bodies.
Ultimately though, he felt that the defendant’s actions could have ended far worse for the injured family.
“His reckless and careless behavior could have taken the lives of my grandchildren and my daughter and myself,” he said.
In June of this year, Grozav pleaded “no contest” to the bodily injury charge. In exchange, he will face a minimized probation sentence, with one year in the county jail.
However, in contrast to both his plea and the victim impact statement read in court, the defendant previously told his parole officer that the incident on the freeway was not his fault, claiming that drunkenness was condemned as causing the car crash.
“It was an accident. Because I was drinking, I was blamed,” Grozav was quoted to have said.
Judge Timothy Frawley, who oversaw the DUI hearing, expressed how startling he found this claim to be, and stated that the defendant’s blood alcohol content made him question Grozav’s memory of the event in question.
“That statement really astonishes me, Mr. Grozav,” Judge Frawley put simply.
Before reading out the specific stipulations of defendant’s sentence, the judge condemned the defendant’s consumption of alcohol, and warned that if it continued, Grozav would likely face further consequences
“It’s clear you have a substance abuse problem … You’re just one of those people who can’t drink ever—ever” Judge Frawley emphasized. “You won’t get the kind of deal that you got in this case if you get convicted of another DUI or similar type of offense. You’ll be going to jail for a long time, or you’ll be going to state prison.”
Along with a year served in the county jail, Grozav is required to pay restitution for the victims, enroll in alcoholism treatment programs, and abstain from any consumption of alcohol.