Man convicted of murder in Angels pitcher's death
Monday, September 27, 2021 6:27 PM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By AMY TAXIN

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A jury convicted a drunken driver of murder Monday in the deaths of promising rookie Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two of his friends.

Andrew Gallo, 23, held white rosary beads and occasionally looked up at jurors as they returned convictions on three counts of second-degree murder and single counts of drunken driving, hit-and-run driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and causing great bodily injury.

Gallo, who had a previous DUI conviction, was led away in handcuffs and briefly looked over his shoulder at sobbing relatives of the victims who had gathered in the Orange County courtroom.

"What this case has shown is that the accelerator, the gas pedal on an automobile in the wrong hands is as dangerous as the trigger on a gun," Nigel Pearson, the father of 25-year-old victim Henry Pearson, said outside court. "And in the wrong hands, it can devastate the lives of many, many people."

Gallo faces 50 years to life in state prison at his scheduled sentencing on Dec. 10.

His attorney Jacqueline Goodman said Gallo would appeal.

"I think it's tragic," she told reporters. "I think there's been a miscarriage of justice."

Prosecutors said they charged the case as a second-degree murder instead of the lesser charge of manslaughter because Gallo had a previous DUI conviction, had specific knowledge of the dangers of drinking and driving from his own experience, and had signed a court form from the earlier case saying he understood he could be charged with murder if he drove drunk again and killed someone.

To win a murder conviction, prosecutors had to show Gallo acted with implied malice, intentionally drove drunk, acted with a conscious disregard for human life, and knew from his personal experience that he could kill someone.

Adenhart, 22, died just hours after pitching six scoreless innings in his season debut. Pearson and Courtney Stewart, 20, also died in the April 9, 2009, collision in Fullerton. Passenger Jon Wilhite was severely injured.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said it was the 11th DUI-related murder conviction in the county since 2008.

"People are dying here," Rackauckas told reporters. "We want to get the message out there as well as we can that people will be prosecuted for murder when they engage in this type of conduct."

Jurors, who began deliberations Thursday, said they had intense discussions and were well-aware that Gallo had not only ruined the lives of the victims' families but also his own.

"It was emotional," juror Beth Smith said after leaving the courtroom. "I think a lot of us lost sleep over this."

Her eyes welling with tears, Stewart's mother said she felt relieved to finally have a verdict.

"It won't bring Courtney back, but I know she's looking down on us and she's happy," said Carrie Stewart-Dixon, who wore a pink and white bracelet bearing her daughter's name. "It was justice for the kids - and all our families."

Prosecutors alleged during the two-week trial that Gallo, whose blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, spent hours drinking beers and shots with his stepbrother at three different bars before running a red light and T-boning the car driven by Stewart.

Prosecutor Susan Price told jurors that Gallo had been repeatedly warned by friends, family and court officials about the dangers of drinking and driving, but his arrogance and need to party prevented him from learning the lesson.

Gallo's attorney said her client believed his stepbrother was his designated driver and only drove after his stepbrother became too intoxicated and asked him to take the wheel. By that point, she argued, Gallo was too drunk to realize the consequences of driving drunk.

In a separate ruling, the judge last week found Gallo guilty of driving on a suspended license.


Associated Press Writer Gillian Flaccus contributed to this report.

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