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Leylani Simmons, 25, East Palo Alto resident. Simmons has been charged with second-degree murder in the Friday, June 17, 2011, alleged drunken driving crash that killed her passenger while Simmons tried to evade East Palo Alto police, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Leylani Simmons, a 28-year-old East Palo Alto resident who killed her passenger in a drunken-driving crash while trying to evade police, was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Family members of the woman killed, Lorina "Lupe" Veamatahau, 22, of East Palo Alto, were in the courtroom for the sentencing. Her mother made a brief statement, asking Simmons why she didn't comply when officers tried to pull her over, said Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato.

Simmons' aunt also spoke, asking Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan to be lenient.

Creton told Simmons she made bad choices that were entirely avoidable, Serrato said.

On June 17, 2011, Simmons drove her silver Jeep Cherokee through East Palo Alto at speeds of up to 80 mph and ran through at least six stop signs with police in pursuit. The chase began at about 10:30 p.m. after police said they saw Simmons driving erratically, twice weaving onto the wrong side of the road. She lost control at Pulgas Avenue and East Bayshore Road, where the vehicle overturned, killing Veamatahau.

In June, a jury deliberated for less than four hours before finding Simmons guilty of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter with intoxication and felony evading.

Naki Veamatahau, the victim's father, told The Daily News in June that he felt sorry for Simmons and held no grudge against his daughter's friend.


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Simmons has been in custody without bail. Her case is scheduled to return to court Sept. 19 for a restitution hearing, but she is not required to attend.

Simmons' defense attorney, Michael P. Devoy, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.