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Plea Postponed for Woman Charged in Fatal July Crash

A Pacific Palisades woman faces one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of 82-year-old William Howard Smerling last summer in Santa Monica.

An arraignment for the woman charged with fatally driving into an 82-year-old Santa Monica business owner this summer was postponed Thursday.

Cambria Lee Gordon, reportedly the wife of TV producer Howard Gordon, both residents of Pacific Palisades, was charged Dec. 7 with one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, according to the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office.

She is now scheduled to enter a plea 8:30 a.m. Feb. 3 at the airport branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, a clerk said.

The victim, William Howard Smerling, had retired from his family's business, on 26th Street before his death in August.

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He succumbed one month after Gordon hit him as he shuffled across a marked crosswalk near the dry cleaning business. According to a police report, Gordon was reaching for her cell phone when she crashed into Smerling in her Toyota Highlander, throwing him into the nearby intersection, shattering his spine, wrist and pelvis.

"Gordon was driving south on 26th Street approaching Georgina Avenue, when she was looking for her cell phone that she thought had possibl[y] dropped on the passenger side floor board then noticed the cell phone on the front passenger seat," the report states. "As she looked up she noticed a pedestrian directly in front of her ... [she] attempted to emergency brake and collided with the pedestrian."

According to the report, Gordon was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She had reportedly just returned home from a trip to Isreal three days earlier, and felt jetlagged and had experienced vertigo.

The Smerling family has filed a civil suit against the Gordons, saying the misdemeanor charge doesn't go far enough.

“There’s a lawsuit because there’s a loss,” said Smerling’s son Robert.

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Eddie Greenberg January 06, 2012 at 02:44 AM
One year in jail and only a misdemeanor? Killing a great man and an asset to the community reaching for a cell-phone illegally? Folks where is justice? This man suffered for a month before his death from this accident.He should not have died, and 82 or 102 this was negligence! Did Cambria Lee Gordon even have any remorse? What is going on when this is a misdemeanor and the Farmer's Market convicted killer of ten people in 2003 did not spend one day in jail? This should be 10 years in jail and drivers licence suspended for life.
Claudia Schafer January 07, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Oh, I think we all know what's going on here. As F. Scott Fitzgerald so aptly said, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." The rules of crime and punishment are rarely applied as equally to them as to an ordinary person who cannot afford an uber-attorney. This is a monstrous miscarriage of justice, silently condoned by a society that is blinded by worship of wealth and those who possess it. Ms Gordon should be sentenced to a lifetime of emptying the bedpans of those who have been rendered helpless by careless drivers such as herself. I hope the Smerling family win their civil suit so successfully that it makes the next rich fool driving a Sherman tank think twice before reaching for that bloody cell phone.
Eddie Greenberg January 07, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Exactly right and eloquently written! Thank you Claudia!!!!
lahope January 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
She had reportedly just returned home from a trip to Isreal three days earlier, and felt jetlagged and had experienced vertigo. Oh well, that excuses her then....
Claudia Schafer January 07, 2012 at 09:26 PM
While totally appreciating the sarcasm, I feel obliged to note for the record that, according to the DMV handbook, anything - repeat - anything - that impairs one's judgement or ability to drive is illegal. If Ms Gordon's jetlag was so severe as to impair her ability to drive - she should not have been driving. No one experiencing vertigo should be operating any kind of lethal machinery - that's a no brainer. And if she was taking medication to combat the vertigo, and that was a contributing factor - that is considered the same as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These issues she cites as mitigating factors are in reality proof that she was driving irresponsibly, and fumbling for a cell phone that is not supposed to be used while driving anyway is just icing on this festering turd-cake of injustice. Is anyone going to put the screws to Santa Monica law enforcement to find out why they are turning a blind eye to all this?
Eddie Greenberg January 07, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Claudia you are right on!!! That blind eye perhaps is assisted by invisible people in high places behind the scenes. Campaign contributons etc. come to mind. City attorneys are eager to please their elected bosses. Some important people may be neighbor's too. Perhaps included in the next diagnosis will be amnesia on both sides. This after all is "La La" land where spin is in. The SMPD chief believes crime is down in our town to around the time of "It's A Wonderful Life".
Claudia Schafer January 08, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Well crime may (or may not) be down, but injustice is up. Between this and the recent Nativity-gate, I don't know who they think they are fooling. Hmmmm - and this is an election year...tick tock SM Gov't cronies:-)

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