An unauthorized immigrant who was tried twice for allegedly driving while drunk and causing a crash in San Ysidro that seriously injured a 6-year-old boy will not be tried a third time, a judge ruled Friday.
The case against 39-year-old Constantino Banda Acosta, a Mexican citizen who has been deported from the United States more than a dozen times, was dismissed.
On Monday, Chula Vista Judge Stephanie Sontag declared a mistrial in the case after jurors informed her they were unable to reach verdicts on the felony charges, including felony hit and run causing serious injury and driving under the influence of alcohol.
In September, a different jury that had heard the Banda case announced that it was deadlocked on the felony charges, but convicted him on misdemeanor counts of vandalism, battery and driving without a license.
Sontag declared a mistrial on the felony counts, and the District Attorney’s Office announced a short time later that it would retry the defendant on the felonies.
Meanwhile, on Friday Sontag sentenced Banda on the three misdemeanor convictions, giving him credit for the more than two years of time he has already served while going through the two trials.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler said immigration authorities placed a hold on Banda so that he is not released from custody before federal prosecutors decide whether to pursue any federal charges.
Banda was arrested after the May 6 crash that left then-6-year-old Lennox Lake with serious injuries, including a fractured skull.
The family was returning home to San Ysidro after a trip to Disneyland.
The case drew national interest after federal authorities said Banda had repeatedly crossed the border illegally, further fueling an already contentious debate about immigration both locally and nationally.
Banda had been deported to Mexico, or allowed to return there voluntarily, 17 times since 2002, according to records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Chandler argued in both trials that Banda was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Silverado when he ran a stop sign at Dairy Mart Road and Camino de la Plaza and broadsided the Lake family’s Honda Accord.
Banda was in the driver’s seat of the pickup when Border Patrol agents pulled him from the vehicle less than two miles from the crash site.
Deputy Public Defender Juliana Humphrey contended that it was actually another man, Jorge Adame Ariza, who was driving at the time of the crash.
Surveillance video shows Adame behind the wheel of the pickup earlier that evening when the pair left a Chula Vista restaurant.
Humphrey argued that police assumed too quickly that Banda was the driver, and they didn’t question Adame until three days after the crash.
Chandler has said that Banda and Adame switched seats before the crash because Adame did not have a driver’s license. Adame, who was in the country illegally, also testified that it was Banda who ran a stop sign and struck the Lake family’s car.
(c)2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune
Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.