Jury convicts Arcadia man of vehicular manslaughter, deadlocks on murder charge

POMONA — A jury convicted an Arcadia man Friday of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated Friday for driving through a freeway closure while drunk, fatally striking a road worker on the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park last year, but could not reach a verdict on a murder charge, authorities said.
The Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, 39, of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, along with a charge of driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent, court officials said. But the jury acquitted the driver of a count of drunken driving causing injury, and became deadlocked regarding a second-degree murder charge.
He was ordered back to court Dec. 2, at which time prosecutors were expected to announce whether they would re-try the murder case.
Caltrans subcontractor Connor McDermott Penhall, 21, of Corona, died at the scene of the crash, which took place about 11:45 p.m. April 4, 2012, on the westbound 10 Freeway just west of Francisquito Avenue, officials said. Penhall, who is the son of actor and motorcycle champion Bruce Penhall, was performing construction work with Colorado-based Flatiron West Inc. when he was struck.
Sakamoto drove through signs and cones warning of the full freeway closure before the fatal collision.
Sakamoto was initially charged only with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and the two DUI-related charges in the days after his arrest, however prosecutors in December filed an additional charge of second-degree murder.
Sakamoto is being held in lieu of $1.05 million bail.
Penhall’s family has since filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from Flatiron West Inc., Caltrans and the CHP alleging the agencies failed to follow proper procedures regarding the road closure the night Penhall was killed.

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