BY ANNIE BURRIS
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SANTA ANA – A judge on Friday ordered a man to serve six years in state prison for killing a 14-year-old bicyclist while he was driving under the influence of two prescription drugs and sending text messages from his cell phone.
“What caused this accident was your selfishness, your careless indifference for human life,” said Orange County Superior Court Judge Marc Kelly.
Jeffrey Woods was convicted Nov. 2 for killing Danny Oates and sat expressionless during the sentencing. He faced 10 years in prison but Kelly refused to impose the maximum sentence in part because Woods did not have a criminal history before the Aug. 29, 2007, crash.
Defense attorney Scott Well had asked for parole but Woods’ father Bob Woods told the judge that his son “deserved prison time” because he needed to be held accountable for his actions.
Bob Woods also extended his sympathies to the Oates family, saying: “We haven’t gone an hour without thinking of you guys.”
The dead boy’s father Paul Oates said he would have preferred the maximum penalty for Jeffrey Woods but respected the court’s decision. He also said that his family had turned a page since the conviction.
“That night was the first night we slept well,” he said.
A jury convicted Jeffrey Woods of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated. The case was the Orange County District Attorney’s Office first prosecution of a felony manslaughter jury trial that involved text messaging.
During the four-week trial, the prosecution argued that Jeffrey Woods was under the influence of Xanax and Vicodin and sending text messages when he killed Danny Oates.
Well argued that Jeffrey Woods had a seizure during the crash and was later diagnosed with epilepsy.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Price had called the seizure defense “bogus,” and Kelly later said he did not believe Jeffrey Woods had had a seizure that day.
Friends and family on both sides spent more then two hours during the sentencing telling the judge how Danny Oates’ death has rocked their communities.
Mother Kristi Oates said Huntington Beach police officers picked her up from work the day of the crash and she had called her husband from the back of the police car. When she was told that her son had died, her first instinct was the hang up the phone.
“What else was there to say?” she said of her reaction.
When she arrived home, she could hear Danny Oates’ younger brother and sister screaming inside from the news.
“My house was so happy,” she said. “How can this be my life, my family that I’ve worked so hard to cherish?”
Relatives and friends talked about the broad shouldered, athletic teen who was a vegetarian and liked to be rubbed on the forehead.
“He did make our hearts grow and the other kids learned from his example,” said Morrie Rowan of her oldest grandchild.
Jeffrey Woods’ neighbors, friends and former teacher said he was a kind man who helped others.
There is not a malicious bone in Jeff’s body,” said Jenny Bradish. “He is truly one of the most compassionate and caring kids I have ever known.”
Ron Ferree said the family had four children and that Jeffrey Woods was not a criminal.
“The whole family is the most loving, warm family you would ever want to know,” he said.
Kelly said that he believes Jeffrey Woods was genuinely remorseful for his actions.
Woods was also sentenced to three years parole, he had his driver’s license was revoked for three years and he needs to pay $28,000 in restitution to the Oates family.