An illegal immigrant, deported at least 15 times, accused of DUI in a hit-and-run crash that seriously injured a San Ysidro boy has been found guilty on three misdemeanor charges, but a mistrial was declared on felony charges against him.
39-year-old Constantino Banda faced charges for his role in the May 6 crash that sent 6-year-old Lennox Lake to the hospital with serious head injuries. The jury ruled Banda guilty of misdemeanor charges of driving without a license, battery, and vandalism under $400. The jury was hung, however, on felony charges of hit and run causing death or permanent injury, DUI causing injury, and driving with immeasurable blood alcohol causing injury.
Federal immigration officials said Banda has been deported from the United States at least 15 times over the past 15 years, most recently on January 18. Police say he was speeding on Camino de La Plaza about 11:30p.m. May 6 in San Ysidro when he ran a stop sign at Dairy Mart Road and crashed his pickup truck into a car carrying 6-year-old Lennox Lake and his parents. Lennox, in a child safety seat in the back of the car, suffered a major head injury and continues his recovery.
Banda fled the scene, and was arrested about two miles away after Border Patrol agents spotted his damaged truck parked on a street. Banda's passenger, Jorge Adame Ariza, also an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, testified under a grant of immunity during the defendant's two-day preliminary hearing in June that he and Banda had a number of beers that night before the accident. Adame said Banda got in a fight with a man outside a Chula Vista restaurant after Banda's wife and a girlfriend accused the defendant of puncturing a tire on their car. Adame said he drove up in Banda's truck after the fight and put Banda in the passenger seat. After they drove away, Banda took over as the driver, Adame testified. Banda's defense attorney argued her client was not behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
San Diego police Officer Michael Muniz testified that Banda's blood-alcohol content measured .151 and .152 percent -- the legal limit is .08 -- during two breathalyzer tests about 2:15a.m. The jury was hung, after they couldn't come to a decision on all charges against Banda. Another hearing will be held next week. Banda is also still facing immigration charges.
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