A 30-year-old Los Angeles man pleaded no contest Wednesday to a charge that he killed a 61-year-old rabbi while driving drunk two years ago.
Willie Norton Jr., 30, entered his plea – considered the same as a guilty plea in criminal court – as jury selection was slated to begin in his trial Wednesday, said Long Beach Police Sgt. Hans Kohnlein.
After entering his plea Norton was promptly sentenced to 17 years in prison, said Kohnlein, who is in charge of the Accident Investigations Detail.
The victim, Gilbert Shaffer, was visiting from Brooklyn, New York, on March 7, 2007, when the fatal crash occurred.
The car Shaffer was driving – a white 2007 Saturn Ion – was hit by Norton’s gold 1990 Cadillac Fleetwood and Shaffer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators said then that Norton’s Cadillac spun out of control after he was hit by a Los Angeles Metro bus near Pacific Coast Highway and Long Beach Boulevard.
Investigators said Norton appeared to be drunk and the cause of the crash. He was eventually arrested and charged with the rabbi’s death in October of 2007.
Relatives of Shaffer said the rabbi – who lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York – was in Long Beach on a business trip at the time of his death.
The driver of the Metro bus, a 24-year-old Whittier man, was never charged in the fatal crash.