Widow of man killed in Hearst Ranch crash wants $4 million in restitution

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comNovember 26, 2013 

A woman whose husband was killed in a drunken driving accident at Hearst Ranch four years ago wants the driver of the car to pay $4 million in restitution.

But the driver’s attorney said the widow and her son have already received millions.

Kurt Naegele appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for a restitution hearing Tuesday. Naegele had previously pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for an accident that occurred on Sept. 18, 2009. On that day, the Newport Beach man and three friends were guests at a private party at Hearst Ranch. Investigators said Naegele and his friends drove to an airstrip at the ranch that night to see how fast Naegele’s Range Rover could go. After reaching speeds the CHP estimated as high as 105 mph, the vehicle flipped, killing Darren Dahlman, 38, of Pasadena.

Naegele’s blood-alcohol level after the accident was measured at 0.16 — twice the legal limit.

While Naegele, 44, maintained that another passenger had been the driver, he eventually pleaded no contest and was sentenced to a year on house arrest and four years' probation.

Victims are typically rewarded restitution upon conviction in criminal cases. The victim’s wife, Laura Dahlman, has received some restitution already. Now she is requesting an additional $4 million in lost earnings. Darren Dahlman, who worked in commercial real estate, was a senior director at CBRE Investors Group in Los Angeles.

During the hearing Tuesday, Naegele’s celebrity attorney, Mark Geragos, cross-examined some of the victims and survivors who have already received restitution money. Geragos, who has previously represented Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and Scott Peterson, asked Dahlman’s father, William Dahlman, about the $70,000 he billed for his son’s funeral, which was attended by 650 people.

Dahlman said roughly half the money paid for a reception at the Jonathan Club, an exclusive private club in Los Angeles, which included Darren Dahlman as a member. Christopher Pennel, a passenger who was injured during the accident, submitted a bill for $930,000 a year ago for “primarily lost wages,” he said in court.

Formerly the president of a printing company, he said he was earning $310,000 a year until the accident. But he has not worked at that job since and now sells life insurance.

While Laura Dahlman testified that she has “substantial assets,” in Geragos’ words, she said some of the money she has received is in a trust for her son, who was 3 when her husband was killed.

Laura Dahlman also filed a civil suit against Neagele. Meanwhile, she has received money from her husband’s insurance company and will receive Social Security for her husband until she re-marries in February. She also recently inherited money from a grandmother.

Meanwhile, her son will receive settlement money from the Hearst Corp., and will continue to receive $1,900 a month from his father’s Social Security until he turns 18.

The parties will return to court Jan. 3. Eventually, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy will decide on any restitution to be awarded.

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