BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Nic Peterson died in January 2021 after being hit by a car while on a motorcycle with his stepfather in Northwest Bakersfield. The woman accused of his death is avoiding a felony charge.
Cristina Moreno Gonzalez is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence but under the state penal code, this charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. In Morena-Gonzalez’s case, it became a misdemeanor and now the Peterson family is devastated.
“We don’t know how to move forward knowing she may never face jail time while, ever, while we’re stuck living in prison," said Nic's aunt, Brandee Coffia.
The 13-year-old died on the corner of Coffee and Hageman roads after the motorcycle he was a passenger on with his stepdad collided with a vehicle.
- READ ALSO: Bakersfield family mourning the loss of 13-year-old Nic Peterson, killed in motorcycle collision
Moreno-Gonzalez was originally charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence filed as a felony but at her preliminary hearing on Tuesday that changed.
“After viewing the video and hearing the testimony of the officers, the court found that this did not constitute gross negligence, and reduced the charges to misdemeanors which was appropriate in light of the evidence that was presented,” explained H.A. Sala, the attorney representing Moreno-Gonzalez.
Sala says Penal Code 192 dealing with California vehicular manslaughter has two sections.
“One is a felony that involves gross negligence that means acting in such a way that you have a disregard for human life. That same section has a misdemeanor component where ordinary negligence is only involved and that is failure to exercise reasonable care.”
Sala says after the facts, in this case, were presented he agrees with the judge's ruling. But Coffia told 23ABC that the family is still dealing with the outcome.
"It’s alarming. It’s alarming as nic’s aunt that his life in this situation appears to hold no value and at the end of the day, Nic paid with his life."
While the family still wishes the outcome was different Coffia says nothing will bring Nic back.
“There is no amount of jail time that brings Nic back, but there is justice, and this is not what justice looks like.”
Sala says he understands what the family is going through however the law speaks for itself.
“The facts rather do not support what the law requires for gross negligence and it’s a misdemeanor. That doesn’t in any way diminish the feelings or the emotions that the family had and continues to have. Those obviously are very legitimate emotional reactions but the application of what happened to the law is different.”
Despite the outcome, Coffia says her family will continue to fight.
“It didn’t work this go round for Nic, and like I said we will never have justice for Nic. And as disheartening as that is, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to continue to fight so that there’s justice for the next one because there will be a next one.”
According to court documents Moreno-Gonzalez was released on $50,000 bail. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for August 5th.