Stepbrother: Man accused in DUI death of Angels pitcher was celebrating new job, gov’t check

By Gillian Flaccus, AP
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Defendant’s kin testifies in pitcher’s death case

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The stepbrother of a man charged with murder in a drunken-driving crash that killed rookie Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others testified Wednesday that he persuaded the defendant to keep drinking after he said he wanted to stop.

Raymond Rivera said he and defendant Andrew Gallo spent hours drinking at two bars before the deadly crash. When Gallo went to the restroom, Rivera said he ordered two more beers but Gallo got upset and wanted to go home rather than drink them.

Rivera told jurors he egged Gallo on, telling him that he paid for the beers and they should finish them.

“I told him I had wasted my last couple of bucks on it and you’re not going to drink it. I thought you were my brother,” Rivera said, who had to pause to compose himself. “He wanted to stop. I persuaded him to continue.”

Gallo, 23, covered his eyes and appeared to be crying at the defense table.

He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of the Adenhart, 22, Courtney Stewart, 20, and Henry Pearson, 25. He has also pleaded not guilty to one count of felony hit-and-run and two counts of driving while drunk and causing injuries to Rivera and another passenger in the other car.

Gallo, whose blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit at the time of the collision, could face a maximum sentence of more than 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have charged him with murder — instead of the lesser charge of manslaughter — in part because he had a prior DUI conviction in 2006 and signed documents then saying he understood he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving drunk.

Prosecutor Susan Price spent much of Wednesday questioning Rivera about the hours leading up to the collision, which happened just hours after Adenhart had pitched six scoreless innings in his Angels season debut.

Rivera said he drove his parents’ minivan as he and Gallo ran errands and wound up at a bar and restaurant where Gallo’s girlfriend worked.

After Gallo gave his girlfriend a rose, the pair sat down at the bar and began drinking, Rivera testified.

The two were in a good mood because Gallo was starting a new job the next day and had received a government assistance check and Rivera believed he had landed a second job at Sears.

The pair drank several beers each at the first bar and did a tequila shot before going to a bikini bar called The Well. There, they drank “boombahs,” or beers in foot-tall glasses that hold the equivalent of about three pints each, Rivera said.

Rivera said he blacked out at the second bar, but recalls buying himself and Gallo a pint each of a specialty beer that’s notorious for having such a high alcohol content that some bars don’t serve it.

The prosecutor also presented a witness who worked a third bar a few doors down from The Well who testified the two brothers came in and each ordered a beer and a shot.

Rivera said he doesn’t remember going to that bar or getting in the minivan.

The next thing he remembers from the evening, he told jurors, was looking at Gallo in the driver’s seat after the collision.

“The next time I saw him, it was in court,” Rivera said.

Rivera said he checked on the occupants of the other car after the collision and realized they were “hurt pretty bad.”

Stewart, the driver, was killed instantly. Adenhart was in the front passenger seat and Pearson, who also was killed instantly, was in the right rear seat. A fourth passenger who survived, Jon Wilhite, was in the left rear seat.

Adenhart died in surgery a short time later.

“I saw the driver. She was sitting up, with her head down,” Rivera recalled. “I saw the driver’s side passenger. …They were just really slumped toward the door. It looked really unnatural. I could not get in that position if I wanted to.”

Under questioning from Goodman on Wednesday, Rivera said he always drove his stepbrother around because Gallo had a suspended license. He said he insisted on taking his stepbrother to the second bar when Gallo instead wanted to go grocery shopping and go home.

Rivera also said under cross-examination that Gallo didn’t realize how drunk Rivera was until the end of the night and didn’t realize he would have to drive home instead.

“I drove all the time,” he said. “He was drinking thinking he wasn’t going to have to drive.”

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