SAN JOSE -- On the week federal safety officials are putting national attention on the deaths of children left in hot cars, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced that it will not charge a Los Gatos man in a San Jose case involving his 9-month-old son.

The office has deemed the April 16 hot-car death of Giovanni Alonzo Hernandez, one of 18 instances recorded in the United States so far this year, a tragic mistake by an otherwise conscientious father.

"Like most parents, I know how fatigue can sometimes rob us of common sense and good judgment," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement Monday. "While we have prosecuted child endangerment cases in the past, this tragedy does not rise to the level of recklessness that both the law and justice require."

That "level" Rosen referred to entails an "aggravated, flagrantly negligent or reckless act rather than one resulting from inattention or mistaken judgment," and an investigation revealed no such act by the father, who has not spoken publicly.

The last time a Santa Clara County parent was prosecuted in a hot-car case dates back more than a decade: Brian Gilbert, of San Martin, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and ordered to perform community service after he accidentally left his infant son to die in a hot car in July 2001, as he watched Japanese anime cartoons inside his brother-in-law's San Jose home.


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As it happens, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is sponsoring National Heatstroke Prevention Day on Thursday to highlight the hazards of leaving unattended children in enclosed vehicles. Bay Area meteorologist and child-heatstroke expert Jan Null found that 624 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke since 1998 -- an average of 38 a year. Last year there were 44. In California, 41 children died in that 16-year period.

The issue climbed further into the national consciousness this summer when an Atlanta father was charged with murder and child cruelty in a June episode where he purportedly left his 22-month-old son in a sweltering vehicle on purpose. Null said it was the first case he has heard of where someone was accused of deliberately leaving a child in a vehicle to do harm.

Authorities say that on the day Giovanni died, his father drove to a home on Payne Avenue in West San Jose where he picks up a truck a couple times a week to make deliveries as part of his job. The father, who only had four hours of sleep, forgot about a change in his family's routine that required him to drop off his son with a baby sitter that morning, and accidentally left Giovanni in his car seat. The child was not discovered until his father realized the mistake after his workday and returned to the car around 7 p.m. that evening.

The cause of Giovanni's death was ruled as hyperthermia, or an elevated body temperature. It reached a high of 79 degrees that day, but Null said the temperature inside a vehicle can rise 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes. After an hour that day, it would have been 125 degrees.

A two-page summary of the case released by prosecutors was sympathetic to the father, citing witness accounts portraying him as an attentive parent with no history of child abuse or neglect, and noting he "was cooperative with law enforcement's investigation and was extremely distraught and remorseful."

"This case in particular, looking at the facts and circumstances, and the law, it really fell short of the standard we'd have to meet for criminal negligence," said Sumerle Davis, a deputy district attorney who reviewed the case. "This is a terrible tragedy, and he's going to have to live with it for the rest of his life."

Staff writer Mark Emmons contributed to this report. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.