(KRON) — A Petaluma man was sentenced to four years in prison after he was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for causing a crash that killed a man in September 2020, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release on Tuesday. James Thomas Watkins, 43, lost control while driving, striking and killing Mario Gongora Castaneda.
“The charge resulted from the defendant’s negligent management of, and repeated concealment of, a seizure condition,” the DA said.
The seizure condition resulted in crashes in the past, the DA’s office said. However Watkins concealed the condition from doctors, police and the DMV, and continued driving.
Castaneda was taking his trash cans to the curb on Petaluma’s McDowell Boulevard when Watkins lost control of his car and crashed into him. According to the DA’s office, Watkins was acting like he was under the influence of a depressant, which is common for people in the later stages of a convulsive seizure.
Watkins insisted he did not have a seizure disorder and was thus arrested for driving under the influence. But testing later revealed that he did not have alcohol in his system, and a small amount of his seizure preventative medication was the only controlled substance found.
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Watkins was involved in three other crashes in the two-and-a-half years before the one that killed Castaneda. At least one of them involved concealing his disorder. The DA said Watkins lied about the condition when applying for a driver’s license.