Ex-CHP officer gets jail time for crash

Copyright 2006 Marin Independent Journal, a MediaNews Group publication
All Rights Reserved

Marin Independent Journal

A former California Highway Patrol officer who was under the influence of alcohol when his motorcycle crashed into a bicyclist in West Marin was sentenced Monday to four months in jail and three years of probation.

Denis Gallotti,43, faced six years in state prison for the offense, but a Marin Superior Court judge agreed with a probation report that recommended a more lenient punishment.

Acknowledging a written pledge from Gallotti that he would never drink and drive again, Judge Faye D'Opal suspended a prison sentence.

The victim, Samuel McMillan of Mill Valley, spoke to the court prior to the sentencing, saying he felt lucky to be alive even though he had fractured both legs, his hip and spine in the accident.

"I feel no anger, no resentment, no ill will or the wish for revenge against Denis Gallotti," McMillan said. Since the June 5, 2005, accident, McMillan said he has been in pain daily, been hit with more than $100,000 in medical bills and has been unable to ride a bike.

McMillan told the court he was not sure prison would help and said that community service might be more useful.

D'Opal ordered Gallotti to serve 40 hours of community service, abstain from alcohol during his probation and ordered fines and restitution.

Gallotti can apply to be paroled with an electronic bracelet and, if approved, serve his sentence at home.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Stephen Gallenson said he was pleased D'Opal and the district attorney's office approved the recommendation of probation.

Gallotti and Gallenson approached McMillan, and Gallotti apologized for what he had done. The men talked and shook hands.

Gallotti, a 22-year CHP veteran with no prior record, resigned after the crash. He was found guilty of driving under the influence and causing great bodily injury by a Marin jury after a two-and-a-half-week trial in February.

The accident occurred when Gallotti was returning to his home in Novato after drinking what he testified were four or five beers at the Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes Station.

According to court testimony, Gallotti passed three cars - at least one that pulled to the right to let him by - and then drove around a curve. Shortly after he came out of the curve, Gallotti saw the stopped bicyclist and claims he swerved to the right to avoid hitting him.

Gallotti said McMillan was in the middle of the road. Prosecutors cast doubt on that assertion, saying the victim could have been just slightly to the right or even inside the fog line.

McMillan said he could have been a foot or two from the fog line, trying to replace the chain on his bike. He said he did not hear Gallotti's Harley-Davidson approach until seconds before he was struck.

About an hour and 20 minutes after the accident, Gallotti had a blood-alcohol level of .15 percent, or almost twice the legal limit.

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