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Ex-official seeks clemency in deadly crash

SACRAMENTO, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The family of an ex-state official in prison for killing three women and a toddler in a drunken crash has asked California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for mercy.

Roberto Vellanoweth's family asked the governor, in a letter, to either pardon him or commute his sentence of 17 years and eight months, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday. The letter reminded Schwarzenegger he appointed Vellanoweth, now 66, to the Board of Optometry and said Vellanoweth is now aware of the enormity of his crime.

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At the time, Vellanoweth claimed he did not realize he was drunk when he hit another car in 2007 while driving on the wrong side of a Sacramento street, though tests showed his blood-alcohol level at 0.16 percent, or twice the legal limit. He said a woman had given him what he thought was a soft drink but it actually was spiked heavily with alcohol.

He testified at his 2008 trial the driver of the other car, killed with her son, sister and another young woman, was to blame.

The prosecutor at Vellanoweth's trial, Assistant District Attorney Albert Locher, opposes clemency.

"In light of his conduct -- drinking heavily, killing four people and seriously injuring another -- his request for clemency is just one more evidence of his failure to acknowledge and accept responsibility for his actions," Locher said Tuesday.

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