From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat


Published on September 28, 2004
2004- The Press Democrat



Santa Rosa attorney Harvey Hereford was sentenced Monday to almost nine years in prison for a drunken driving accident in April that killed one bicyclist and critically injured another -- the survivor telling the judge her life has been changed forever.

``I lost a lot, including a friend,'' said Jill Mason, 27, a marketing analyst from Cupertino.

Mason was paralyzed in the Highway 12 accident that killed her boyfriend, Alan Liu, 31, a computer engineer from Mountain View.

Sitting in a wheelchair and speaking to Hereford in a halting voice, Mason said she's lost her independence.

``My legs don't work anymore. You've changed my life forever, and you've taken Alan's away,'' she said.

Mason will most likely spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, said her mother, Joanne Mason. Jill Mason suffered severe head and spinal injuries and spent more than five months in the hospital.

She has had numerous surgeries and was unable to speak for months.

The courtroom was packed with family and friends of Mason and Liu. During an emotional two-hour hearing before Judge Elaine Rushing, the relatives said Hereford should get the maximum penalty for running into them.

They said Liu was a top athlete and swimming coach who had a promising career in the computer industry.

``You robbed the world of a very fine young man who offered so much to society,'' Liu's mother, Rita Wells, told Hereford.

Rushing imposed the maximum sentence -- eight years and eight months in prison. Hereford, 69, must serve at least 85 percent before being eligible for parole.

Mason and Liu, both triathletes, were bicycling April 11 on Highway 12 near Oakmont when Hereford veered off the highway and struck them from behind. The level of alcohol in Hereford's system was more than three times the legal limit for driving, the CHP said.

On Monday, Hereford admitted he was drunk that Easter morning and said he's sorry for what happened.

Hereford, who has a law practice in San Francisco, said he doesn't remember driving away from his Oakmont home that morning or turning onto Highway 12.

``I don't recall getting into the car. The first thing I recall is that the windshield shattered,'' he said.

Speaking to the Mason and Liu families, Hereford said he's guilty of a ``monumentally selfish act.''

Hereford pleaded guilty in July to vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving and driving on an expired license.

Deputy District Attorney William Brockley said Hereford should get the maximum sentence because he knew about the dangers of drinking and driving.

``He put every family in the community at risk,'' Brockley said.

According to a Probation Department report, Hereford was depressed because he felt abandoned by his family on Easter Sunday.

Hereford's attorney, George Engler, said his client takes responsibility for the ``terrible tragedy.''

Mason's and Liu's relatives said they don't believe Hereford is sorry for what he did, and his prison sentence won't make up for their loss.

``He has failed to show any remorse,'' said Barry Liu, Alan Liu's father.

Rushing said Hereford deserved the maximum sentence because of the high level of alcohol in his system.

``The court does intend to send a message that drinking and driving will not be tolerated in Sonoma County,'' she said.

At a news conference after the sentencing, the Liu and Mason families were joined by relatives of Daniel O'Reilly of Sonoma, a bicyclist who was struck and killed last April by a drunken driver on Mark West Springs Road north of Santa Rosa.

In the O'Reilly case, Rushing sentenced William Michael Albertson, 46, of Cobb to 14 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter. His sentence included an extra five years because he previously was in prison for assault in 1999.

On Monday, the victims' families urged stiffer penalties for drunken drivers.

``Let this be a lesson to people and show them what drunken driving can do,'' Jill Mason said.

You can reach Staff Writer Steve Hart at 568-5312 or