A San Jose engineer who has been free on bail since he drank the equivalent of 15 beers and killed a Pioneer High School teenager was led away in handcuffs Wednesday after a jury convicted him of drunken driving, vehicular manslaughter and fleeing from the scene of an accident.
The Santa Clara County jury deliberated less than one day before finding George Xinos guilty of the felony charges, an outcome that looked far from sure in spring of 2006 when he took 15-year-old Marcus Keppert's life.
Xinos remained stone-faced while the guilty verdict was read, but his eyes widened when Superior Court Judge Marc Poche summarily ordered him into custody. Keppert's parents, grandmother and friends wore smiles on their tear-stained faces, relieved by what the teen's father called a "bittersweet" conclusion to the long ordeal.
"Marcus can rest in peace now," said his grandmother Minnie Aviles. "He's paid, and now it's Xinos' turn to pay."
Xinos faces up to nine years in state prison, largely because Keppert's bereaved family and friends relentlessly pressured prosecutors to seek the heaviest charges possible. Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham argued the case persuasively during the weeklong trial in a calm but aggrieved tone.
Xinos originally faced lesser charges after the May 6, 2006, crash that could have landed him in county jail for a maximum of one year - one felony count of hit-and-run and one misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. But the charges were expanded - to include vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving, hit-and-run, and driving under the influence and causing injury - after Keppert's parents hired a leading expert in accident reconstruction. The expert retrieved data from the "black box" in Xinos' GMC Yukon that showed the engineer was driving down Almaden Expressway in the middle of the night at 76 mph - 31 mph above the speed limit. Xinos also was on probation for another drunken-driving conviction at the time.
Keppert's mother, Elaine Aviles, pressed for a court trial instead of letting Xinos agree to a three-year plea deal. "Marcus deserved his day in court," Aviles said. "So for families in the same position, I say 'Don't give up.' "
Xinos is set to be sentenced April 19.