A 21-year-old Orange County man accused of driving drunk and crashing into a San Diego police car, seriously injuring a rookie officer, pleaded not guilty Monday to felony DUI charges.
Samuel Sullivan, free on $100,000 bail, appeared for his arraignment in a wheelchair with a bandage on a foot. Several friends and family members of the injured officer attended the brief hearing.
Deputy District James Romo said Sullivan exited northbound state Route 125 in his Toyota truck about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 30 and ran a red light at Mission Gorge Road in Santee, broadsiding a patrol car driven by 24-year-old SDPD Officer Travis Betley.
"He (the defendant) was going very fast," the prosecutor said outside court.
Betley was trapped in his vehicle for almost an hour before being freed from the wreckage. The officer -- who has been on the force 14 months -- has undergone multiple surgeries for broken bones and internal injuries and faces a long recovery, officials said.
According to Romo, the defendant -- a resident of Lake Forest -- was in San Diego for a friend's birthday party and admitted drinking before the accident.
Sullivan's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.22 percent after the crash, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving, Romo said.
Defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan, no relation to the defendant, spoke briefly to reporters, calling the incident an "unfortunate" accident.
"We wish the officer a speedy recovery," the attorney said.
The defendant was charged with DUI causing injury and DUI with a blood- alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. The charges include a great bodily injury allegation and an allegation that Sullivan's blood-alcohol level was .15 percent or higher at the time of the crash, Romo said.
Sullivan faces six years in state prison if convicted, according to the prosecutor.
Judge Charles Ervin scheduled a readiness conference for Feb. 20 and a preliminary hearing for Feb. 27.
-City News Service