The grieving family of the victim, Sho Funai, 23, stared intently at the accused, Nikolette Kristina Gallo, when she was handcuffed July 27 by sheriff’s deputies and led away.
The victim’s family, prosecutors and the probation department officials recommended Gallo serve between three and four years in state prison. San Diego Superior Court Judge Dwayne Moring gave Gallo a year with five years’ probation.
Daisuke Funai, the victim’s oldest brother, said his brother earned a master’s degree in engineering posthumously at UCSD, where he was a student.
“When I think of how painful it must have been, I cannot bear it,” said the victim’s mother, Kazue Funai, tearfully. “Each morning, I wake up in despair. He would have been a great engineer.”
Sho Funai’s death came on the 59th birthday of his father, Yuji, who said every birthday will now only serve as a reminder of his son’s tragedy. Sho’s brothers said Sho didn’t believe in drinking and driving and often acted as the designated driver for others.
Gallo stood and told the family she was sorry for their loss, adding, “I am in pain every single day after this tragedy. I will be regretting my actions for every day of my life.”
Although Moring urged the sheriff’s department not to release Gallo early, her projected release date is Jan. 11, according to the sheriff’s department. Gallo was ordered to perform 100 hours of volunteer work and to attend a DUI course.
She had originally been free on $50,000 bond and received credit for one day spent in jail.
Her driver’s license was revoked and a Sept. 21 hearing will be held to see if she should pay restitution to the victim’s family.
Funai was killed March 11 at
4:30 a.m. while walking near the Nimitz Boulevard onramp on Interstate 8. A friend, Tina Chang, told the judge Funai was just “one major street from home” at Sunset Cliffs and West Point Loma Boulevard when he was hit.
Gallo’s attorney, former District Attorney Paul Pfingst, said Funai’s blood/alcohol level at death was 0.17 — more than twice the legal limit — and that Funai was walking on the freeway in dark clothing, which contributed to his death.
The impact bashed in the left windshield portion where the driver sits, which Pfingst claimed proved Funai was walking on the dark freeway and not on the freeway shoulder. Photos of the damaged car were shown to the judge.
Gallo told a probation official she thought she struck either a coyote or a sofa on the freeway and continued driving. She contacted her father the next morning after hearing news reports about a body that had been found on the freeway, prompting the father to contact an attorney.
Gallo surrendered to police at least nine hours after the incident and had no alcohol level in her blood when tested by police. However, Gallo admitted to drinking at a party the night of the accident and to previously smoking marijuana.
Gallo pleaded guilty to a felony hit-and-run count resulting in death. The judge noted he was following the sentencing guidelines to “punish the running and not the hitting.”
Gallo had no prior record.