“Highly Educated Young Woman” Gets 180 Days And Probation For Killing A Father While Drunk Driving
On July 21, 2019, two lives collided in a fatal DUI case and now the story is trending on social media.
Many Twitter and TikTok users argue that white privilege allowed Lindsay Ann Richardson, 25, to receive only 180 days in jail and probation for killing Julian Solis, 34, a father to a 6-year-old boy, while driving drunk.
Julian’s father, John Solis, told ID that the presiding judge in the case, Judge Jaime R. Román, stated he was “very impressed” by Richardson in court, just months after Julian’s killing. The sense of loss of justice has the Solis family feeling that they’re the ones being punished for her actions.
July 21, 2019, 9:30pm
According to the Solis family, on July 21, 2019, Julian had gone out a walk to clear his mind.
Around 9:30 p.m., Richardson's SUV reportedly swerved into the shoulder of the road, striking and killing Julian instantly.
What did I hit?
A nearby neighbor said the driver, Richardson, got out of her car and immediately asked, “What did I hit?” According to official court documentation "The defendant, remaining at the scene, and despite initially minimizing her alcohol ingestion, tested at a blood alcohol level of .184 with a PAS of .175 and .168.” Richardson was arrested at the scene.
The shocking incident was captured on that same neighbor’s home surveillance footage, which was turned over to police to assist their investigation. In a note addressed to Julian’s family, the neighbor wrote, “...From the footage it was clear he felt nothing and it was instant.”
Julian’s girlfriend, Natasha Elmore, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child together, had talked to him less than an hour before he was killed. Later that night, with her two children in the backseat, Natasha unknowingly drove past her boyfriend’s body lying in the street. Her 10-year-old son, who looked up to Julian like a father, and nicknamed him “Chub Chub,” saw Julian’s body.
Natasha told ID her son said, “That looks like Chub Chub.” She quickly responded, “Honey, don’t say that. That’s not him.”
Natasha called Julian’s phone all night, but never got a hold of him. The next day, Natasha called Julian’s father, John, and got the heartbreaking news.
“He just lost it,” Natasha told ID. “He said, ‘Julian’s dead! He got hit by a car.’” Natasha broke down crying in front of her babysitter’s house.
Months later, Natasha, who had a high-risk pregnancy, was unable to carry their baby to term due to the stress and trauma of losing Julian.
180 Days in Custody and Probation
On July 23, 2019, the Sacramento District Attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint against Richardson. They charged her with “a violation of Penal Code section 191.5(b), driving under the influence of alcohol and killing Julian Solis.” They recommended the maximum punishment for her crime, which is 4 years in state prison.
Five months later, the Sacramento Probation Department, in agreement with the DA’s office, recommended Richardson receive “the maximum term of 4 years in state prison.”
In his December 2019 tentative ruling, Judge Jaime R. Román indicated he would offer Richardson “the middle term of 2 years in state prison.”
However, months later he ultimately suspended that sentence and imposed a final sentence of 180 days in custody, as well as 5 years probation and an additional 180 days with an ankle monitor.
According to Julian’s family, Richardson spent two nights in jail before bailing out.
The story began trending on social media almost a year after Julian’s untimely death. Numerous people shared photos of Richardson on a boat, claiming her race and status played a major role in her sentencing. Mayra Renteria, Julian’s sister, said Black and Hispanic people commented on social media threads stating they received more time for drugs than Richardson did for killing Julian.
“People were defending her too, saying she’s a good person. My brother was a good person too, but he didn’t deserve to die,” Mayra told ID. “A lot of people wrote letters of recommendation for her and the judge was happy with that. She knows a lot of people.”
Julian’s father, John, reportedly observed Richardson’s social media accounts, prior to all of them appearing deactivated, and characterized her lifestyle as “partying.”
“When I first found out her name I Googled her and a lot of stuff came up of hers, but then a week later I Googled her again and nothing.” Mayra said. “Everything was all gone. Someone blocked her public records right away, right when she got arrested.”
The Petition and the Sentence
In a July 2020 Change.org petition titled, “Justice for Julian M. Solis,” the creator, Amy Smith, wrote, “Lindsay has had the privilege to keep her name off public record completely, opening her doors to many opportunities.” Smith urged people to sign the petition to “bring justice and peace to Julian’s family by prosecuting Lindsay to the fullest extent of the law, no white privilege.”
The petition is addressed to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and currently has over 71,000 signatures.
Mayra told ID that the DA asked John Solis what he wanted Richardson to receive before her final sentencing and John was firm on the maximum sentence. “But they completely changed it up and she got nothing close to what [Julian’s father] requested,” Mayra told ID. “We didn’t even know her sentence was reduced to 180 days until we saw all the people sharing information on social media. It just seems like the DA is trying to point fingers at each other. Nobody wants to stand up for what their decision was.”
The attention caused the Sacramento County DA’s office to release a statement in order to address “numerous inquiries based upon false and misleading information.”
“The loss of human life is tragic,” the DA’s office stated. “The sentence that was imposed, which was less than the maximum term the District Attorney’s Office was seeking, was the Court’s assessment of the appropriate sentence in this case.”
Along with their statement, they released Judge Román’s December 2019 tentative ruling which listed factors that influenced, what some are calling, his light sentence.
Court documents revealed Richardson was described as a “highly educated young woman and professional” who “dutifully remained at the scene” of her crime. Judge Román stated that “the defendant was inebriated - very inebriated” but also mentioned she is “exceedingly remorseful” , “has no prior criminal record” and she now “seeks to give meaning to her victim’s death and the void his family has sustained.” He acknowledged Richardson’s actions since Solis’s killing, including “deterring youth from engaging in similar misconduct,” “devoted herself to sobriety, reformation, and restorative justice to mitigate the extent of her conduct on her victim’s son.” She also reportedly “started a fund for the child’s future education.”
John, Mayra and Natasha are all unaware if Richardson or her family have actually set up the fund for Julian’s son. ID contacted Julian’s estranged wife and mother of his child, but she did not respond to our requests.
Judge Román later said “This is an event too often repeated, and, at this juncture of my life, I have come to realize will continue to be repeated by others, posing either a threat of harm, or as in this case actual harm to others.” Román added, “But noticeably different from the others who have come before me for similar offenses is Ms. Richardson’s response.”
He then offered Richardson “the middle term sentence of 2 years in state prison.”
In January 2020, Richardson reportedly “pled to the charge as filed.”
On February 28, 2020, “the Court heard statements from the victim’s family and the defendant.” In her victim impact statement, Natasha reminded the court that she lost their unborn child, and that a “slap on the wrist is unacceptable.”
“Julian was a good and innocent man who was given the death penalty by a drunk driver named Lindsay Ann Richardson,” Natasha said, “Although I know she’s not sentenced or subjected to the death penalty, I do believe the right thing to do is sentence her to the maximum penalty allowed by the law.”
According to John, Richardson addressed the court by reiterating the fact that she was currently working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was attending AA and was informing high school students about drunk driving.
“It’s just devastating. Her lawyer told her to do all of those things to make herself look good,” John said. “Then the judge told her, ‘Well, I’m very impressed.’ And that got me. I was really angry about that. She’s there to be punished, not to be impressed by.”
John told ID Richardson looked at the family in court and said she was sorry.
Julian’s family pleaded for the maximum penalty while Richardson’s legal team argued for probation. Richardson was ultimately sentenced to 180 days in custody, as well as probation time and electronic monitoring.
“The DA said if she didn’t kill him, she would’ve gotten more time. But since she killed him, she didn’t,” Natasha told ID. “Why is it OK for her not to get the maximum time?”
“Why she’s only going to do 180 days, I don’t know. It seems like it’s getting less and less every time,” John told ID. “I do feel because she’s white, she got off a little easier. If it would’ve been any other nationality, they would’ve probably got a harsher sentence.”
It’s still unclear why Judge Román ultimately reduced Richardson’s sentence from “2 years in state prison” to only “180 days to be served in custody.”
Requests and Rejections
Julian’s story did not garner much attention from major media outlets in the months following his death, however, in June 2020, The Sacramento Bee reported about the social media firestorm, without providing any photos of Julian or Richardson.
“I know if it was any of us, [the media] would’ve had our mugshots and our names, because they already do that” Mayra told ID. “When we are the victims, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, my brother wasn’t that important for her to serve her full term.”
ID reached out to multiple Sacramento agencies for access to Richardson’s booking photo as well as to any additional information on her reduced sentence. Officer Greg Zumstein, Public Information Officer for North Sacramento California Highway Patrol, the arresting agency in this case, told ID in a phone conversation that, “Lindsay Richardson’s booking photo is public record, the case has already been adjudicated and it’s public information.”
In an email, Zumstein stated, “CHP has no reason to prevent the mugshot from being released and has no hold on the photo.”
Sergeant Teresa Deterding, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson, however, declined to release the photo telling ID that they “do not release booking photos for outside agencies unless specifically requested by that agency,” nor do they “release photos after arraignment.”
On behalf of CHP, Officer Zumstein granted ID permission to request that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department release Richardson’s booking photo.
Sergeant Deterding declined to release the photo once again, but, did indicate that Zumstein’s agency does “have access to the photo.”
“It is our practice to leave release of a booking photo from an outside agency up to that agency...which they do all the time,” Sergeant Deterding wrote.
Jaime Coffee, CHP Spokesperson, stated that “Mug shots are only released by the agency [Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept.] that possesses them.” Then stated, “bottom line, it is not our photo to release.” Ultimately, neither agency released Richardson’s booking photo.
In an effort to determine why Richardson’s sentence was reduced, ID contacted the DA’s office, the Superior court offices and the probation department.
Shelly Orio, Media Officer for the DA’s office, informed ID they would not provide anything further to the statement they had already released in June 2020. Orio directed ID’s follow-up questions to the court/judge for the final sentencing decision, Judge Román.
Kim Pedersen, Public Information Officer for Sacramento Superior Courts, suggested ID “request a copy of the probation order that would include the recommendations for state prison v probation.”
That request was denied due to confidential court records that could not “be released without a court order.”
Pedersen suggested ordering court transcripts “to see if there was discussion on the record about the reduction in sentence.” According to the Sacramento Superior Court, “there is a cost associated with court reporter transcripts.”
Pedersen also requested a court file on behalf of ID, but later stated the file is “off site and due to COVID, our records unit is closed.”
Finally, Pedersen told ID, “Judge Román is on medical leave and not accessible. Further, judges do not issue statements on the ‘reasons’ they ruled on a particular case as every case is unique and presented on a separate factual basis.”
ID’s CA Public Record Act request was also denied by Sacramento County Sheriff Scott R. Jones. The department stated the request was denied “pursuant to the California Public Records Act, Gov. Code 6254(f), 6255, and the California Constitution, Article I, Section I.”
Essentially, the reasons for denial all appear to center around Richardson’s safety and right to privacy.
[The judge] made her sound like she did good. Anybody else would’ve gotten worse.
Father of the victim John Solis
Richardson’s “noticeably different” response to her crime, the “awareness of the impact this event has had on this young woman,” and the fact that she “dutifully remained at the scene of her crime,” as stated in Judge Román’s tentative ruling, played a role in the sentence.
“[The judge] made her sound like she did good.” John told ID. “Anybody else would’ve gotten worse.”
According to Natasha, Richardson turned herself in on July 17, 2020, just four days before the one year anniversary of Julian’s killing, but was rejected. She was told to try again in September.
The start of her sentence has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayra set up the family’s own GoFundMe to help the family cover expenses since Julian’s death and for his son, AJ’s future. The fundraiser currently has over $19,000 in donations.
Despite being grateful for the outpouring of support, all Julian’s family truly wants is justice for Julian, which means Richardson receiving the maximum sentence.
“It’s not fair knowing that the person who took Julian’s life can still walk, talk and eventually walk free,” Natasha told ID. “At this point, we just want her to serve her time, but even serving her time isn’t going to bring him back. He’s gone.”