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SANTA ROSA
Judge: Diabetic likely not guilty
SR crash into blind man in wheelchair called tragedy, not hit-and-run

A Sonoma County judge discouraged efforts Monday to prosecute a driver who struck a blind man in a wheelchair last winter, saying the incident, however tragic, does not have the makings of a hit-and-run case.

Though postponing a final ruling until testimony wraps up next week, Judge Frank Passalacqua ordered the prosecution to find a "sensible, practical solution to this case" before then.

"We can't explain tragedies like this, but they happen in life," Passalacqua said.

His statements followed the testimony of a Santa Rosa police investigator who recommended against criminal charges because the driver was having a diabetic emergency at the time he nearly killed Ken Rossi in a Montgomery Drive crosswalk.

Traffic Officer Mark Azzouni said defendant Seth Dix, 34, was sweating, disoriented and obviously impaired when he met him on the side of the road a few minutes after the 5:30 p.m. accident.

Dix could not remember his wife's name, his address or his phone number, and said he hadn't seen anyone in the crosswalk, Azzouni said.

A witness said Dix had been weaving and almost hit some parked cars before cruising through the crosswalk at Franquette Avenue without slowing or stopping, Azzouni said.

The witness, an off-duty probation officer, flashed his high beams several times and got Dix to pull over about 200 yards past the intersection, Azzouni said.

Dix's blood sugar, taken 40 minutes later, was so low he was taken by ambulance to Kaiser hospital.

Dix nonetheless faces felony hit-and-run charges, in large part because of the severity of Rossi's injuries, which included a fractured skull, pelvis, femur and face, brain injuries, the loss of his spleen and permanent nerve damage.

After 62 days in the hospital, Rossi is still in physical therapy and treatment for post-traumatic stress.

During a tense moment after Passalacqua left the courtroom Monday, Rossi's mother, Carol Vellutini, confronted defense attorney Jonathan Steele in tears and demanded his client apologize to her son.

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