gavel.jpgTwo men facing murder charges in connection with the 2006 crash that killed a San Francisco police officer during a high-speed police chase are now weighing plea offers of 15 years in state prison, after the driver was given a life sentence earlier this week.

Steven Petrilli, 24, of San Francisco, was sentenced Tuesday by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Newton Lam to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the July 26, 2006 killing of police Officer Nick-Tomasito Birco.

Petrilli had been fleeing police in a stolen van after four robberies in the city that night when he struck Birco’s patrol car at a speed believed to be over 50 mph at an intersection in a residential neighborhood in the Portola District.

Birco was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.

A jury convicted Petrilli last September of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, evading police and gross vehicular manslaughter.

In court today, Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming said a plea deal had been offered to the two other men in the van, Carl Lather, 25, and Nicholas Smith, 26, both also of San Francisco.

The men are accused of also participating in the robberies and are charged with murder.

“An offer has been communicated of 15 years to the defendants,” Fleming told Lam.

The deal would include pleas of guilty to voluntary manslaughter and the robberies.

The offer expires next Friday, Fleming said. If no deal is made, jury trials will be scheduled at that time.

Outside court, Fleming said Birco’s family approved the offers.

“The family doesn’t want to go through another trial,” he said.

“Their main concern was to have the driver punished for the death of their loved one.

They believe 15 years is a just punishment for their culpability.”

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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