A former San Jose police officer who was at the center of a drunken driving cover-up scandal is now on the hook for close to $250,000 after a civil trial.
A jury on Wednesday sided against the former officer, Sandra Woodall, 42, whose Cadillac Escalade careened into several cars in 2008, injuring Jessica Cardona.
After the accident, Woodall was reportedly belligerent and disoriented and openly admitted that she had been drinking and was just out of rehab. However, San Jose police officers who responded to the accident reported that they noted no signs of intoxication and did not test her alcohol level.
The jury awarded the 20-year-old Cardona $62,000 for injury and trauma. Woodall, who later pleaded guilty to drunken driving in connection with the incident, agreed to the rest of the $250,000 settlement before the punitive phase of the trial could commence.
“The money is irrelevant, it’s about a system that failed this family criminally so the civil suit was the last resort they had,” said Robert Allard, the woman’s attorney, who added that he would attempt to get all of the judgment from Woodall’s insurance company. “All they cared about was that she engaged in malicious and despicable behavior. As a former police officer, she should have known better. And the acknowledgment of that was worth everything to this family.”
There was no evidence in the four-day trial about the high-profile police probe that focused on whether
the San Jose police officers who responded tried to protect Woodall from DUI charges. The two officers, Sgt. Will Manion and Officer Patrick D’Arrigo, were fired from the Police Department but reinstated late last year after arbitration.
Meanwhile, Woodall — who was a district attorney’s investigator at the time of the accident — is now unemployed, her lawyer Chris Rudy said.
“She is relieved to have closure,” Rudy said.
Cardona suffered a smashed toe during the March 25, 2008, accident and was traumatized, according to Allard. She was hospitalized and had a metal screw inserted in the toe.
When police arrived at the incident, they were supervised by Manion.
Medical personnel on the scene believed Woodall was drunk, and they told investigators they felt Manion had tried to disrupt their attempts to determine her level of sobriety and get her to the hospital. Later, at the hospital, D’Arrigo reportedly told Cardona’s mother that it was too late to test Woodall for alcohol.
Woodall’s husband, Jason, was a San Jose police sergeant at the time of the accident; her father-in-law, Jack Woodall, is a former lieutenant in the Police Department.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office passed the DUI case to the state attorney general, citing a conflict of interest.
Woodall pleaded guilty in late 2008 to driving under the influence causing injury and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. A week later, Manion and D’Arrigo were cleared by a grand jury of any criminal wrongdoing.
Woodall was found guilty in April 2010 of misdemeanor hit and run when she crashed her car into a chain-link fence. Officers reported that they found her at her home, apparently intoxicated, a bottle of vodka nearby.
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.