Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man who was charged with the deaths of 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others in a DUI crash entered a plea of not guilty on Monday, June 8 to three counts of murder.
Gallo, 22, also pleaded not guilty through his attorney to three other felony charges and one misdemeanor charge in connection with the April 9 crash that took place mere hours after Adenhart pitched six scoreless innings in his first career start.
While awaiting the appearance of Gallo, who watched from a security enclosure as his attorney entered the pleas, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, the lone surviving member of Adenhart’s group, began sobbing. He was embraced by friends and family.
Later, Gallo’s attorney said that he planned to seek a change of venue because he believes his client will not get a fair trial in Orange County, where both the Angels and California State University, Fullerton, where Wilhite played in college. He noted that in another courthouse where Gallo appeared, an Angels poster was hanging in the hallway.
Gallo’s attorney also noted that he and his client have received death threats.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Price disputed the need for a change in venue, saying that the DA’s office doesn’t believe Gallo will face any more prejudice in Orange County than he would elsewhere.
According to Price, if convicted of the three second-degree murder charges, Gallo would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 45 years to life in prison. Conviction on all of the charges would mean a minimum sentence of 54 years and eight months to life.
According to police, at the time the minivan Gallo was driving ran a red light and broadsided the silver Mitsubishi Eclipse occupied by Adenhart and three friends, who were en route to a club to celebrate his successful debut, Gallo’s blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.
Police say the impact caused both vehicles to spin around and one to strike another vehicle, whose driver was unharmed. Gallo then fled the scene on foot, but was apprehended approximately 30 minutes later.
Adenhart died during surgery at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. The driver, 20-year-old Courtney Frances Stewart, and another passenger 25-year-old Henry Nigel Pearson, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Wilhite spent weeks in the hospital for “internal decapitation,” in which the skull is separated from the spinal column, a rare condition with an even rarer survival rate.