Man gets 19 years for fatal DUI

A Santa Rosa man was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison Thursday for killing the passenger of a Ford Explorer he was driving when he crashed into a tree in Rohnert Park while drunk last year, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

Judge Jaime Thistlethwaite sentenced Rafael Prieto-Gonzalez, 24, to 19 years and four months as expected after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors in February. Prieto-Gonzalez crashed into a tree on northbound Commerce Boulevard in Rohnert Park at about 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2014, killing Abel Acosta, 44, of St. Helena.

Prosecutors said he had taken the Ford Explorer and a wallet from a man at a Santa Rosa pool hall. He and Acosta drove the Explorer to another pool hall in Cotati, and then drove to Rohnert Park together, where Prieto-Gonzalez lost control of the car and crashed.

After the crash, witnesses heard Prieto-Gonzalez screaming for help. When they helped pull him out of the wreck, he ran from the scene and hid in a nearby neighborhood, according to police. He was found several blocks away. When he was arrested, police found his blood-alcohol content was 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

Prieto-Gonzalez must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole and once released, any future DUI offences will be charged as felonies, according to prosecutors.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement:

“The family of the deceased victim, Abel Acosta, was satisfied with this disposition. … It holds the defendant responsible for very poor choices that resulted in tragic consequences.”