Mad River Union
EUREKA —Humboldt State University student Robert William Bergeson III was remanded to Humboldt County Jail immediately after being sentenced Feb. 22 to one year behind bars and four years of supervised probation.
His mother and friends cried out in protest and heartbreak in the courtroom when the 24-year-old was handcuffed and led away by bailiffs.
His loved ones were taken by surprise because the defense had asked the court beforehand to allow Bergeson to begin his sentence on June 1 and avoid disrupting his academic schedule.
Judge John T. Feeney ruled otherwise, while acknowledging the request and saying he understood the practical reason for it.
Under the law, Bergeson’s clean rap sheet gave the judge leeway on the length of incarceration. In addition to the one-year county term, he could have sentenced Bergeson from 16 months to three years in state prison.
Reversing course, Bergeson pleaded guilty on Jan. 11 to vehicular manslaughter in the drunken
driving death last September in Arcata of local music engineer Alan Edward Gradwohl, 55. Bergeson’s van struck Gradwohl as he was proceeding in broad daylight through the clearly marked crosswalk at 14th and H streets adjoining Wildberries Marketplace.
Gradwohl’s brother and loved ones were incensed that Bergeson had not been charged with criminal homicide at the time of his arrest. In lengthy statements read aloud before sentence was pronounced, they implored Feeney to take tougher action beyond what the probation report had recommended.
The state’s manslaughter case charged that Bergeson’s blood alcohol level tested at 0.16-0.17 percent, twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.