SANTA ANA – A 27-year-old Tustin woman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a drunk-driving crash that nearly killed an Orange police officer in December and has left him on a long road to recovery.
Officer Sharif Muzayen, now 32, was in a neighborhood at about 3 a.m. on Dec. 10, helping another officer concerning a report of an intoxicated man sleeping in a truck blocking a driveway. Ashley Bertolino, driving a 2016 Hyundai Veloster, crashed into him as he stood behind his police cruiser.
Prosecutors said Bertolino was driving at about 40 mph while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Muzayen, who has about three years with the Orange Police Department, suffered severe injuries below the waist and lost several pints of blood on the way to the hospital. He was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent eight surgeries, including the insertion of a titanium rod in his tibia.
On Tuesday, Muzayen, who recently has been able to walk without a cane, limped into the courtroom and sat directly behind Bertolino as they waited for the judge.
He was joined by his wife, Vanessa, and her parents.
As part of a court offer, Bertolino pleaded guilty to three felony counts, including driving under influence of alcohol and drugs causing injury, and driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.
She faces up to three years in prison when she returns Oct. 24 to court for sentencing. If the case had gone to trial, Bertolino could have faced up to six years if convicted.
Her attorney, Adam Cole, said Bertolino is remorseful and can hopefully receive a lighter sentence.
But Muzayen said he doesn’t believe that Bertolino has fully accepted responsibility because of her initial reluctance to plead guilty.
“It’s a relief that she’s pleaded guilty, but it’s a two-edged sword because I know the maximum sentence is now three years, and that’s…