A judge on Wednesday declined to set aside a vehicular manslaughter case pending against a former CHP officer, saying he must face criminal charges that he negligently crashed into and killed a man in Long Beach.
Alfredo Oros Gutierrez, now 40, was on duty and headed to work on his CHP motorcycle in 2019 when he hit 24-year-old Cezannie Mount around 4:40 a.m., according to authorities.
Gutierrez was allegedly speeding—going at least 69 mph in a 40 mph zone—when he hit Mount, who’d been walking in the fast lane on Del Amo for an extended period of time, according to attorneys on the case.
After the District Attorney’s office declined to file felony charges against Gutierrez, the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office picked up the case, filing misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges that could carry up to a year of jail time if he’s convicted.
Since then, Gutierrez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, has twice requested what’s known as judicial diversion, where a judge can put the criminal case on hold and then dismiss it if the defendant completes whatever requirements the judge sets.
After reviewing evidence in the case and hearing Mount’s family testify to his good character, Judge Jennifer H. Cops declined to divert the case back in February. On Wednesday, Schwartz asked her to reconsider, saying Gutierrez has a “stellar unblemished record” other than this case and a conviction could affect the new career he is pursuing as a social worker.
Because of the severe injuries he suffered, which left Gutierrez in an induced coma for a time and include ongoing neurological issues such as trouble with depth perception, Gutierrez was granted a medical retirement from the CHP and is no longer able to work in law enforcement, Schwartz said. He’s now studying to get his master’s in social work and he’s in the middle of an internship where he’s learning to help homeless, addicted and mentally ill veterans—something a criminal conviction might derail, according to Schwartz.
An officer who served with Gutierrez in the Marine Corps also testified on his behalf Wednesday, saying Gutierrez displayed “utter selflessness” and leadership during his years in the military.
As Mount’s family watched from the audience, prosecutors lobbied the judge to keep the charges intact, arguing that Gutierrez could show his selflessness by admitting what he’d done.
“I’m asking him to take responsibility,” Deputy City Prosecutor James Young said.
Once that happens, Young said, the two sides can come to a suitable disposition that “may not require jail, but it does require him to accept responsibility, and it’s not by diversion.”
Young said it was an overstatement to call Gutierrez’s record unblemished. He pointed out six previous tickets, including four for speeding, that the CHP failed to turn up during their investigation into the crash, which Young said they “usurped” from local authorities even though it was in the Long Beach Police Department’s jurisdiction.
An LBPD spokesperson said he was looking into why the CHP handled the investigation but couldn’t immediately provide an answer.
Schwartz pointed out that all of Gutierrez’s tickets were from at least 15 years ago, and it’s unclear if he was even convicted of the violations. He argued diversion wouldn’t absolve Gutierrez of responsibility, just allow him a second chance as a first-time offender.
Ultimately Judge Cops denied the request to set aside the charges, meaning the case will head toward trial unless the two sides reach a plea agreement.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to remove a reference about Gutierrez suffering from PTSD. After originally saying Gutierrez’s retirement was also related to PTSD, Schwartz later clarified that he was unaware of any official diagnosis of PTSD.