Last July, Wyatt Savaikie was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk near Bouquet Canyon Rd. and Seco Canyon Rd. in Santa Clarita when he was struck by a car and killed. Ralph August Steger, the 74-year-old driver of the vehicle that struck Savaikie was arrested and booked on one charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. Last Thursday, Steger entered a plea of not guilty.
According to police, Savaikie was crossing the street in the crosswalk when Steger allegedly ran a red light and struck the boy. Prosecutors are stating that Steger had previously been convicted of running a red light the previous year, and should therefore face harsher penalties in this case. Additionally, they suggested that the judge suspend Steger’s driver’s license. The judge declined, though he told prosecuting attorneys that they could push to have Steger re-tested.
Running a red light is an infraction that currently carries a fine of $490. Vehicular manslaughter, covered under California Penal Code 192 (c) PC can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. It’s usually charged as a felony when the driver is considered to have acted in “gross negligence” while driving that resulted in another person’s death. “Gross negligence” would be anything other than ordinary carelessness, such as engaging in an action that would be considered dangerous (street racing, would be one example).
In the case above, Steger is not alleged to have acted particularly dangerously while driving, and his charge is being pressed as a misdemeanor. If convicted, Steger faces the possible penalties of: misdemeanor probation, up to 1-year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Steger’s bail was set at $100,000, which he quickly posted. He is set to return to court on January 26, 2016.