July 4 Driver Had Priors for Battery, Traffic Violations
By Leon Worden/SVCNEWS.com
The 23-year-old driver charged with vehicular manslaughter in last year's collision during the city’s Fourth of July fireworks show had been sentenced to anger management classes after being convicted of battery five years ago, court records show.
She also received four traffic citations in a three-year period including a red-light ticket just seven months prior to the fatal crash, and had been warned by the Department of Motor Vehicles to drive more carefully, officials said.
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Melissa Brigitte Brown of Canyon Country was 18 years old on Nov. 17, 2006, when she pleaded no contest at the Santa Clarita Courthouse to one count of battery and one count of disturbing the peace, both misdemeanors, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
SCV Traffic Sgt. Richard Cohen said the court placed Brown on 12 months probation, ordering her to pay restitution and attend anger management classes. No details were immediately available Friday about the 2006 incident; the charges were filed Aug. 2 of that year.
Since that time, Brown, now 23, was ticked for speeding once in 2007 and twice in 2009. On Dec. 12, 2009, she also received a citation for running a red light.
The DMV sent her letters “indicating she needed to slow down,” Cohen said.
Brown is suspected of running a red light on Valencia Boulevard at 9:40 p.m. on July 4, 2010, while thousands of spectators lined Valencia Boulevard as the city of Santa Clarita's fireworks show was drawing to a close. Officials say Brown collided with another vehicle at the Mall Entrance intersection. The impact caused her white sedan to spin out of control, jump the curb and strike several pedestrians. Numerous spectators captured the incident on their cell-phone cameras.
Matilde Garnica, 43, of Newhall, was pronounced dead at the scene, and some of Garnica's family members were injured.
District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said it would be up to the individual prosecutor to decide how to handle Brown's past record in the current proceedings. She said the prosecutor would probably bring up “any information about her driving record that the court allows to be brought into evidence.”
Initially charged in February and released on her own recognizance, Brown pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Fernando Superior Court to one count of vehicular manslaughter and one count of running a red light. She faces six years in prison if convicted on the charges as filed, according to the District Attorney's office.