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Going back to jail 

 An unrepentant Kenneth Walter Freitas, 35-year-old son of a high-ranking county official, prepares to return to jail next week after being rebuffed in an appeal of his conviction for vehicular manslaughter.
 Freitas was behind the wheel of a sports utility vehicle that struck and killed Sarah Marcella Scruggs, 17, as she crossed Grand Avenue in Grover Beach at about 9 p.m. Sept. 7, 2002. She died after four days in the hospital.

 Elizabeth Scruggs, Sarah’s mother, expressed relief at the decision of a three-judge county appellate court, handed down January 23 but not immediately made public. “He’s gotten away with so much in his life that he can only see things his own way,� said Elizabeth Scruggs Tuesday of the man who killed her daughter. “I don’t think he’s ever stopped to consider what he’s done to us.�

 Freitas, whose lawyer attempted during the trial to place blame on the victim, has been free on $5,000 bail during his 18-month appeal. The Arroyo Grande man has a driving record weighty with road rage incidents. He would have avoided prosecution altogether for Scrugg’s death had it not been for the relentless efforts of Sarah’s parents to bring attention to District Attorney Gerald Shea’s unwillingness to file charges against Freitas.

 Court records show that Freitas — son of Frank Freitas, San Luis Obispo County tax collector, treasurer and public administrator — collected 19 moving traffic violations in this county during a ten-year period. In 1998, he was arrested and charged following a road rage incident on Highway 101. While he awaited prosecution for that offense, a second road rage incident occurred. Both cases were melded into one and all felony charges were subsequently reduced to misdemeanors. No explanation for that action has ever been given by the court or prosecutors. Freitas eventually served six months in county jail on that conviction.

 Following their daughter’s death, the Scruggs tried without success to convince Shea to prosecute Freitas. A subsequent Grand Jury investigation would excoriate the district attorney for his “unexplainable� failure to pursue the case. Shea tried to shed himself of the issue, which became a publicity nightmare for his office, by claiming a “conflict of interest� and passing the case to California’s Attorney General. State prosecutors declined to file charges and returned the Freitas file to Shea. Faced with a statute of limitations deadline and a growing public outcry, Shea decided to file the single misdemeanor charge, and a jury found Freitas guilty on July 12, 2004. Judge Dodie Harman proposed a four-month jail term, but Freitas expressed unhappiness with the restrictions of probation and rejected the offer.

 Freitas had served a few days of his county jail sentence on the Scruggs conviction when he was attacked and beaten by two men who were friends of Scruggs, according to jailers.
 In his failed appeal, Freitas claimed he had been “promised� by state and local prosecutors that he would not face charges, allegations denied by district attorney deputies. The appeals court called the argument an attempt “to graft a new wrinkle on the law.� Scrugg’s parents attended every appeals hearing, says Elizabeth Scruggs.
 An opportunity for further appeal expires next week and Freitas will then be required to report to county jail.

 Elizabeth Scruggs said Freitas “has never made any effort to apologize. I guess it’s just arrogance. I don’t think he understands anything except from his own point of view.�

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