A man arrested in connection with a DUI crash last year that killed a San Francisco cable car operator was sentenced today to one year of home detention and five years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges.
William Makepeace, 23, was sentenced today for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and misdemeanor driving under the influence despite objections from the victim’s family, who prosecutors said would have preferred to see him charged with felonies.
Makepeace was riding his motorcycle near the corner of Taylor and Francisco streets in The City’s North Beach neighborhood around 10:30 p.m. on June 11, 2015, when he struck 51-year-old cable car operator Reynaldo Abraham “Avy” Morante from behind, according to police. Morante was getting off his cable car at the time of the collision.
Makepeace remained at the scene while Morante was taken to the hospital and was arrested after police determined he had a blood-alcohol level of .12 percent. He was released on bail shortly after his arrest.
Morante, who had worked for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for decades but only recently became a cable car operator, died of his injuries on Jan. 12.
Morante’s family was not present in court. Prosecutor Lailah Morris instead read a statement from Josephine Morante, one of his two college-age children, saying that the family objected to the plea agreement allowing Makepeace to plead to misdemeanors rather than felonies.
She described Morante as a loving father and a hard worker who loved his job and had dreamed of being a cable car operator because he wanted to be part of the history of San Francisco. She said the family had been “torn apart” by his death and that she and her brother had watched their father slowly deteriorate and die over the course of months.
Josephine Morante said in the letter:
“It’s honestly a slap in the face that our father is dead and you are walking away with two misdemeanors.”
Makepeace, a slim young man with short dark hair and glasses, wearing a dark suit and tie, listened silently to the statement with a serious expression but did not make a statement of his own. Family members were present in court with him but declined to comment.
Morris declined to explain the reasoning behind the plea agreement, except to note that the family had not expressed concerns over the length of the sentence, but only on the misdemeanor nature of the charges.
Defense attorney Doron Weinberg said that the plea agreement reflected the fact that the collision was “essentially unavoidable,” even if Makepeace had not been drinking:
“The street was obstructed by cable cars and Mr. Morante was walking the middle of a dark street with his back to traffic.”
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Edward Torpoco agreed to the plea agreement with some reluctance, noting that he did not have the power to force prosecutors to pursue the case as a felony:
“Mr. Makepeace, I think you are getting away extremely leniently in this case. … If it were up to me, this case would be proceeding on a felony basis and you’d be looking at significant county jail or state prison time. But I’m not the prosecutor, I’m the judge.”
Torpoco sentenced Makepeace to one year of home detention and five years of supervised probation, to be served concurrently.
Makepeace, a lifelong San Francisco resident, attended Skidmore College in Albany, New York, where he studied anthropology and business.
After his graduation in 2014, he was employed by Bloomberg LP in San Francisco in financial sales and analytics, according to his LinkedIn profile.