A former sergeant with the Pleasanton Police Department received a 10-year prison sentence from a Tuolumne County judge earlier this month after being convicted in the drunk-driving crash that killed another driver near Sonora just over one year ago.
A jury found Theodore "Ted" Young guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and other charges -- but acquitted him of the most serious charge, murder -- in February after a five-day trial that saw a number of former colleagues appear in the courtroom in a show of support for the retired police officer, which prompted one former PPD supervisor to condemn the turnout in a critical letter submitted to the court ahead of Young's sentencing.
Prosecutors said Young, 64, of Sonora was drunk and using his phone while driving his Toyota pickup northbound on Highway 49/Highway 108 near Chicken Ranch Road outside Jamestown at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 18, 2022 when he veered into the oncoming lane and slammed head-on into an Acura sedan driven by Rebekah Gall.
Gall, a married Oakdale resident who was raised in Modesto and worked as a social services eligibility specialist for the Tuolumne County government, died from her injuries at an area hospital three days later. She was 27.
"I wholeheartedly believe in our system of justice," deputy district attorney Stephanie Novelli, who prosecuted the case, told the Weekly. "This case was not about Mr. Young being a retired officer. However the fact that Mr. Young had experience responding to DUI scenes and training in DUIs makes it that much more egregious and unfathomable that he would make the selfish decisions that he did on Jan. 18, 2022."
"This case was about Rebekah Gall and her life being stolen from her family and her community because of the callous and reckless decisions Mr. Young made to drink, drive and be on his phone. I only hope that I was able to give some sort of peace and justice to her family," Novelli added.
Impact statements from more than a half-dozen family members of Gall, including her husband and parents, were read aloud during the April 13 sentencing hearing, which also saw prosecutors play a three-minute cooking video Gall made for family and friends during the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to Novelli.
In the video Gall says, "I hope you know I am making this video because I hope it makes you laugh and is enjoyable and a positive thing for you to see because I know that there's not a whole lot of positive things in life right now. I also want to take a minute right now to remind you that you never know what someone else is going through so just have compassion for people and just be forgiving and turn the other cheek on things, especially right now," according to Novelli.
Young also spoke to Judge Kevin M. Siebert during the sentencing hearing, which saw the defense argue for less than the maximum 10-year prison term with his years of police service among the mitigating factors.
When contacted this month, Young's defense attorney Clint Parish referred the Weekly to a quote he gave to the Sonora-based Union Democrat, which covered the criminal case.
"My client wanted me to thank Seibert for his professionalism during the trial," Parish told the newspaper. "We were hoping for a shorter sentence, but I told Mr. Young's family to expect the full 10 years. Mr. Young's family wanted me to express their condolences to the family of Mrs. Gall."
Young, who was a well-recognized officer and sergeant with Pleasanton PD for 29 years, was subsequently convicted of misdemeanor DUI for an incident in Sonora in September 2017, nine months after he resigned from the department.
Judge Siebert took notice of the retired sergeant's prior DUI and the lessons he apparently did not learn in the aftermath, according to Novelli.
During the sentencing, the judge told Young, "Past good acts do not absolve you from what you did to Rebekah and her family nor shield you from punishment ... I don't believe you're a monster, but I do believe you need to be sentenced to what is fair for the crime ... (a) callous disregard for human life," according to the prosecutor.
Young, who has been in county jail custody since he was re-arrested on the elevated charge of murder the day after Gall died in the hospital on Jan. 21, 2022, must serve at least 85% of his 10-year term in state prison -- other than the credits he received for time already spent in jail.
The trial occurred over five court days between Feb. 14 and Feb. 23 before the jury rendered its verdict on Feb. 23, according to Novelli.
Jurors ultimately found Young guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing serious brain injury and serious DUI with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08% by someone with a prior DUI conviction, plus multiple enhancements. They acquitted him of murder for Gall's death.
Young had a number of supporters in the courtroom during the defense phase of the trial, including some former colleagues in law enforcement. Three former colleagues who worked with Young at PPD wrote letters on his behalf ahead of the sentencing, according to Novelli.
Their identities weren't released, and it was unclear whether any still work for PPD. Novelli said one described retiring from the department in 2015.
Pleasanton PD officials, including Police Chief David Swing, did not respond over the last week to requests for comment about Young's conviction and the showing of support from his former colleagues.
The show of support for Young during the trial drew the ire publicly of at least one former Pleasanton police supervisor. Retired Lt. Tom Fenner wrote a strongly worded letter to the DA's Office and Gall family, which was used in the prosecution's arguments during the sentencing phase.
"It was recently brought to my attention that several members of our department attended Ted's trial and sat behind him to provide support. And while this is their right, I believe it sent the wrong message to both the Gall family and the general public," Fenner wrote in part.
"I want you to know, along with D.D.A. Stephanie Novelli and the entire Gall family, that in my opinion, there are MANY current and retired members of the law enforcement community that were absolutely appalled by Ted's reckless and callous disregard for human life. Though he had many years to effectively deal with his alcohol problem, he obviously failed to ever take the appropriate corrective actions," Fenner continued, adding:
"Nothing can be done now to correct his irresponsible behavior that eventually led to Rebekah's tragic death. But I am hoping Judge Kevin Seibert will see to it that Ted gets the maximum possible sentence under the sentencing guidelines so Ted never gets the chance to kill anyone else."
Young worked the vast majority of his three-decade-plus career in law enforcement with PPD, from 1987 until December 2016. He logged prior service time with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department.
Young held a range of assignments with PPD as an officer and sergeant, including time with the narcotics division and a high-profile role in local schools presenting as part of the D.A.R.E. drug abuse education program.
For part of that time, Young was half of a prominent police couple within the department, though they divorced several years before the fatal crash for which Young was just sentenced. His former spouse, Maria (Munayer) Sarasua, is now the police chief in Pacifica -- Novelli said that Chief Sarasua was not involved in person or in writing in her ex-husband's trial or sentencing phase.