Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Antonio Vargas Sentenced to 29 Years in Prison for 2011 Fatal Crash in Somers Point

MAYS LANDING – A Somers Point man was sentenced to 29 years in prison for his involvement in a 2011 fatal crash that left his passenger dead and a bystander seriously injured, Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced.
On June 18, a jury found Antonio Vargas, 24, guilty of all counts against him, including the vehicular homicide and aggravated manslaughter of Kevin Botta, 33, of Somers Point.

On Jan. 6, 2011, Vargas was intoxicated and traveling at a high rate of speed on Shore Road in Somers Point, when he crashed his vehicle into a telephone pole and then fire hydrant, resulting in the death of Botta – his passenger. Another victim, Joseph Higbee, 26, of Northfield, a bystander at the crash scene, was seriously injured by the fire hydrant, which struck him after becoming dislodged from impact with Vargas’ vehicle. The vehicle finally came to a stop after crashing into the entranceway of Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar. Vargas and Higbee were both taken to the hospital. Botta was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation later revealed that prior to the crash that Vargas – who by the age of 21 had received six suspensions of driver’s license – had been drinking at the bar before departing in his new “10-second” Honda Civic for Wawa with Botta as his passenger. On the return ride to the bar, it was estimated that Vargas was traveling at a rate of between 65 – over 100 miles per hour when the accident occurred.
On June 3, 2013, the State, represented by Acting First Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton, began a two-week-long trial against Vargas. Defense attorney Lou Barbone maintained that Vargas had not been the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash. However, the State presented physical evidence, video surveillance and 28 witnesses – including crash experts– testifying that Vargas was in fact driving at the time of the crash.
After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Vargas of all eight counts: aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, three counts of assault by auto, causing death while driving suspended and causing serious bodily injury while driving suspended.
Today during sentencing, Superior Court Judge Max A. Baker, stated that in the four years the defendant had been driving prior to the crash, he had been directly or indirectly ordered not to drive on 24 occasions.
“The defendant’s driving record convinces the court that there is a high likelihood the defendant will reoffend,” stated Judge Baker. “Innocent drivers and pedestrians should be saved from people who have the attitude of the defendant.”
Judge Baker sentenced Vargas to a total of 29 years in New Jersey State Prison, of which he must serve 22 years and one month before becoming eligible for parole.
Additionally, Vargas was sentenced to thousands of dollars in fines and a lifetime suspension of his driver’s license for numerous Title 39 (motor vehicle violations) including: DWI, driving while suspended, reckless driving, operating a vehicle under the influence, failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to maintain lane and unlicensed driver.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.


Anonymous said...

You must think before you act.

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