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3-year sentence in fatal hit-and-run of cyclist

Nancy Jeannethe Serrano of Santa Rosa was sentenced on Friday to three years in state prison for the hit-and-run death of Adrian Albert, the environmental tech entrepreneur who died June 5, 2020, when Serrano’s vehicle hit him while he was riding his bicycle on Sonoma Highway.

Serrano was convicted in November for leaving the scene of an accident, vehicular manslaughter, and driving on a suspended license.

While the maximum prison time on the charges would have been four years, the defense argued that Serrano was relatively young and asked for merely probation, according to Prosecutor Matt Hubley of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office.

Serrano is 26; at the time of his death, Albert was 35.

Albert was originally from Romania, earned his master’s degree at Stanford University and his PhD at Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He was the founder and CEO of a start-up company called Terrafuse which aimed to use artificial intelligence to provide actionable climate information, including prediction of extreme climate events. Albert had been living in Sonoma for the spring, to see through the coronavirus shelter-in-place period in the rural setting.

“It’s difficult in this day and age to get someone sent to prison,” said Hubley, referring to the coronavirus’s impact on the criminal justice system. “And in my opinion the conduct here was egregious enough to warrant a prison sentence.”

Albert was struck from behind by the side-view mirror of a truck at about 8:20 p.m. on June 5, near the entrance to B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen. His body was thrown off the road by the impact as the truck sped on down Highway 12 toward Sonoma, leaving the cyclist on the side of the road. He died at the scene.

Serrano continued driving into the City of Sonoma where she parked her car in a quiet residential area and then left the area on foot. Serrano ultimately contacted law enforcement and confessed to being the driver of the vehicle that fled the scene.

Though the collision took place on June 5, it wasn’t until Aug. 27 that investigators were able to put together a case to issue a warrant for Serrano. She was booked on Sept. 4 on the charges related to the collision, her flight and the death of Albert.

“When someone is involved in a collision, they have a legal obligation to stop and render aid or call for help,” said Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch. “Serrano’s actions demonstrated that she was only concerned for herself and a state prison sentence demonstrates how seriously my office handles these cases.”

On Nov. 11, Serrano was found guilty following a plea of no contest. The charges include felony hit and run resulting in death, and misdemeanor charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving with a suspended license.

Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said she was appreciative that the case was resolved in a relatively short period of time, saying that often such cases can take years to wind through the courts.

“It is an unfortunate reality in the U.S. that vehicular violence against cyclists is under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted,” Weaver told the Index-Tribune. “May this unfortunate death and swift imposition of accountability wake drivers up to the need to slow down, put down the phone, and share the road.”

This case was investigated by the Napa Area CHP office and Lyn McCarthy with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

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