Ex-Officer Sentenced to Jail
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Original Title: Ex-Police Officer Sentenced to Five Years in DUI Death
A former Sacramento police officer was lead away in handcuffs, after being sentenced in a Sacramento courtroom to five years in prison for the drunk driving death of a 13-year-old Elk Grove boy.
Jason March, 30, was sentenced Thursday afternoon for vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run for the death of Michael Ramirez. March has been out of custody ever since his original arrest on May 31, 2005. He was fired by Sacramento Police Chief Albert Najera within just a couple weeks of the incident.
After sentencing, Ramirez' mother, Danielle, said the pain was made even worse because March never apologized. "I was expecting him to at least say something," Ramirez said.
Yet while March wore a sorrowful expression and seemed to pay close attention to victim impact statements made in court, as well as a photo montage of Michael Ramirez' short life, he offered no statement or apology in court.
"My son Michael was loving and caring, everything Jason March was not on May 31st, 2005," said the boy's father, David Ramirez. "Jason March acted irresponsibly and selfishly. If that wasn't bad enough, he left Michael dying in the street."
"I often wonder how a police officer could act so irresponsibly," said Danielle Ramirez. "His sentence is light, compared to the life sentence we have without Michael."
March was off-duty the afternoon of May 31, 2005, when he was driving his Ford Expedition down Bilby Road in south Elk Grove. He struck Ramirez just after the boy got off the school bus and ran across the road to retrieve his scooter hidden in the bushes.
The greater shock to onlookers was that the SUV sped away. One witness, Matthew Pastore, followed March, as several cell phone calls came in to 911.
"It was very heartwrenching to drive through that scene," Pastore later testified at March's preliminary hearing. "I didn't know whether to stop and help the young boy or catch the guy that fled."
March stopped about three miles away on Lambert Road where Pastore confronted him. "'Don't you know what you did? You hit that kid,'" Pastore testified he said to March. "He goes, 'I know, I know, I hit that kid.' Then he told me he was a cop."
Arriving California Highway Patrol officers arrested March. His blood alcohol level was more than two times the legal limit.
In the following days and months, there was more controversy over how March was handled. After his arrest he was quickly taken to Sacramento's downtown jail for booking, then immediately released.
At his first court appearance on June 7, 2005, he was allowed to enter the courthouse through the back doors to avoid the public and the news media. "He was obviously given preferential treatment," said Janine Molgaard, a friend of the Ramirez family who is also an attorney.
Sacramento County Sheriff's officials defended how they handled March by saying he had received threats against his life.
"It may appear he was given preferential treatment. However, that was not the case," said Capt. Bill Johnson. "He was treated just like anybody else who had threats against their life."
The shock to the family was compounded because initially, March was only charged with felony hit and run, not DUI nor manslaughter.
Those charges were added later. Then in a surprise move early last month, March entered a plea deal to avoid trial. He pleaded no contest to felony vehicular manslaughter and hit and run. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the felony DUI charge and promised his maximum sentence would be no more than five years in prison.
"We were shocked. Floored. Appalled, yeah," said David Ramirez. Yet he and his wife Danielle were relieved not to have to endure a trial, and knew the maximum possible sentence would only be slightly higher -- six years, four months -- had March gone to trial and been convicted on all counts.
"There's really not much justice we're going to get for our son Michael," said David Ramirez.
At sentencing, Judge Gary Ransom rejected the possiblity of probation and imposed the maximum sentence. "I've been on the bench more than 25 years," Ransom told March. "It always amazes me people don't get the message to not drink and get behind the wheel."
Along with the prison term imposed, the judge also ordered March to pay $14,625 in fines and restitution.
During the photo montage of Michael Ramirez' life, even the judge seemed moved as those in the audience cried. "Our prayers are with you," Ransom told the family.
March was then taken into custody for evaluation at the Duell Correctional Facility near Tracy. The state Department of Corrections will determine in which prison March will serve his time.
(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)