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Driver, 87, faces trial in crash that killed 10

LOS ANGELES -- An 87-year-old man whose car plowed into a farmers' market in Santa Monica last year, killing 10 people, was ordered yesterday to stand trial for manslaughter.

George Russell Weller will be tried on 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, a Los Angeles County judge ruled.

Weller, of Santa Monica, is to be arraigned Nov. 17. Weller, who has pleaded not guilty, could be sentenced to up to 18 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Weller's lawyer, Jim Bianco, told the judge the crash was an accident that occurred when his client hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

A prosecutor said Weller was negligent.

''He sent 63 people to the hospital and 10 people to the morgue," Deputy District Attorney Ann Ambrose told the judge. ''That is not merely a tragedy. That is a crime."

Weller, who was not in court for the hearing, is free without bail.

Authorities have said Weller's car rear-ended a second car on July 16, 2003, and then continued on until Weller reached the farmers' market held on downtown streets. A California Highway Patrol report said Weller had his ''eyes open, hands on the steering wheel" as his car traveled nearly 1,000 feet at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

The 10 dead ranged in age from 7 months to 78 years.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said the probable cause was ''unintended acceleration" and said the accident was made worse when Weller panicked.

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