A 37-year-old Hayward man who drove a boat while drunk in 2001, resulting in the death of a 22-year-old man, awaited Friday to hear his fate on manslaughter charge.
Sean Augustine Brosnan, the father of two young children, faces up to four years in prison on the felony charge.
On Friday, more than 80 people packed Napa County Courtroom E to see Brosnan's sentencing before Superior Court Judge Richard Bennett.
The room was jammed with Brosnan's supporters and grieving family members and friends of the victim, Edgar Escobar Jr., of Redwood City.
But, after close to two hours of statements from both sides, Brosnan's future was still in limbo.
The prosecution asked the court to sentence Brosnan to state prison. His attorney argued his client and society would be better served if Brosnan received probation.
However, Judge Bennett took a different path, ordering Brosnan to the state Department of Corrections for a 90-day evaluation to determine if he is a potential candidate for probation.
After the evaluation is completed, Brosnan will return to Napa County to be sentenced.
Brosnan was originally charged with one count of felony boating manslaughter and two counts of operating a boat under the influence, causing injury.
On Oct. 3, 2002, he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of manslaughter while boating and one count of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol. He's still facing a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
Escobar drowned on May 26, 2001 — Memorial Day weekend — when he was tossed from the boat in which he was riding on Lake Berryessa, near the Putah Creek Bridge. Brosnan, who owned the boat, was driving the vessel. He, along with Escobar and another passenger, were thrown into the water when the boat, which was traveling about 50 miles an hour, hit a wake and overturned.
Escobar's body was recovered 16 days later when two fishermen spotted it floating in the lake not far from where he went under.
Sheriff's deputies administered a breathalyzer test on Brosnan about a half hour after the accident. His alcohol blood level registered at 0.18, according to court records. The legal limit is 0.08.
Friday's court hearing was a highly emotional scene as family and friends of the defendant and victim cried and consoled each other.
The somber scene intensified when Escobar's mother, Ann Escobar, told Brosnan and the judge of the pain and suffering she has endured since the loss of her only son.
Holding a poster filled with pictures of her son, family and friends, Ann Escobar turned to the defendant and asked, "Can you see it (the poster)? Can you see it, Sean? Sean, I want you to understand the hurt and pain you have caused me and my family."
Sobbing, Brosnan covered his face and wept as the victim's mother continued to speak.
"I never had a chance to say goodbye, and that haunts me. I will never see him again. I have depression and panic attacks since the death of my son. I do not participate in celebrations. Instead of celebrating birthdays with cake and flowers, I bring balloons to his grave," Ann Escobar said, sobbing uncontrollably. "Do you know what is like to bury your child? Sean, you not only killed him, but all of us. A little bit of all of us went with him the day he died."
Edgar Escobar's father also told Brosnan how much sorrow the family has endured since his son's death.
"The loss of my only son … I have no one to carry on my name. All our dreams for him were devastated. I want to tell you, Sean, how much we have suffered," Escobar said as tears streamed down his cheeks.
"How we suffered the day they (the coroner's office) came to tell us his body had resurfaced. It was like he died a second time. For two weeks after he died, we went to the lake every day, even brought his dogs, looking for my son's body," he said. "Any punishment you receive will not be as horrible as the punishment we have received since you killed our son."
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After listening to more than an hour of emotional testimonial from Escobar's family, Judge Bennett called a recess.
As people filed out of the courtroom, Brosnan clutched his wife, buried his head on her shoulder and wept.
When court resumed, Brosnan's family and friends pleaded for leniency for him, telling Judge Bennett that Brosnan had turned his life around and was truly remorseful for the tragedy he caused.
Each person who spoke admitted Brosnan had a drinking problem, but the accident had served as wake-up call, prompting Brosnan to enroll in Alcoholic Anonymous.
"I just can't imagine what it must be like to lose a child, but also to see my best friend die a little each day is gut wrenching," said Brian Sullivan. "Sean had a drinking problem and did something about it — maybe a day too late — but has taken responsibility and is changing his life."
Brosnan's brother-in-law Gary Lorin also praised the defendant's progress in living a sober life since the accident.
"I also want to apologize to the Escobar family," Lorin said, turning and facing the many family members in the audience.
"I know nothing I can say can bring Edgar back. I am looking at a family with tears in their eyes, and I'm so sorry for everything that has happened."
Brosnan's brother, Mike, also assured the judge his sibling had changed and was truly remorseful.
"Not a day goes by that we don't think about your family and your loss," he told the Escobar family.
And finally Sean Brosnan confronted the family for the first time since the deadly day at Lake Berryessa.
"I just can't express how sorry I am. I have to take responsibility for the death of another person and must live with that for the rest of my life," Brosnan said, wiping his swollen red eyes with a tissue. "I can't change what happen. I'm a father and I can't imagine what you must be going through. I never really thought I had a problem with alcohol but I drank too much that day and made a terrible decision to drive my boat. I can't change that. All I can do is try to change my life for the better."
Brosnan met Escobar and his friends the day of the accident. The group was partying with other boaters under the Putah Creek Bridge.
Brosnan agreed to give Escobar and his friends, Andre and Alex Sosa, a ride back to the resort dock.
After clearing the buoy in the lake, Brosnan punched the accelerator and boat lurched forward at 50 miles per hour, according to the records. The Sosa brothers told deputies they yelled for Brosnan to slow down, even tapping him on the shoulder, but he did not comply.
The boat hit a wake, throwing Brosnan, Alex Sosa and Escobar into the lake. Sosa was hit by the boat suffered a concussion and briefly lost consciousness.
Andre Sosa, who remained in the boat, was also hurt when he was thrown about.
According to court records, Brosnan, who has worked as a mechanic for United Airlines for 13 years, has a prior DUI and being drunk in public convictions.
He has been married for more than 10 years and has a son, 4, and daughter, 1.
Marsha Dorgan can be reached at 256-2214 or firstname.lastname@example.org