Judge dismisses felony DUI and hit-and-run charges against 15-time deportee

CHULA VISTA (KUSI) — After two mistrials, a judge Friday dismissed felony DUI and hit-and-run charges against an oft-deported Mexican citizen accused of causing a crash in San Ysidro that seriously injured a 6-year-old boy returning home after a day at Disneyland with his family.

Constantino Banda, 39, was convicted last September of misdemeanor vandalism, battery and driving without a license, but a jury deadlocked on the felony counts. A second jury this week was also unable to reach verdicts.

Banda, was has been deported at least 15 times over the past 15 years, was sentenced to credit for time served on the misdemeanors. Since the defendant remains on an immigration hold, the federal government will decide whether to pursue charges, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler said.

At trial, defense attorney Juliana Humphrey maintained that Banda wasn’t behind the wheel at the time of the collision that injured Lennox Lake last spring. But Chandler said Banda was driving when his truck blew through a stop sign at Camino de la Plaza and Dairy Mart Road and T-boned a Honda Accord carrying the 6-year-old and his parents.

Chandler said Banda, his brother and a man who worked for the defendant, Jorge Adame, had been at a Chula Vista seafood restaurant/bar watching a boxing match before the crash, which happened about 11:20 p.m. on May 6.

Banda’s estranged wife and her friend were also at the eatery, and the defendant flattened the tires on the friend’s car and another car before leaving, Chandler said.

The defendant also grabbed the friend of his estranged wife, and a bystander who intervened got into a fistfight with Banda, he said.

Adame drove away with Banda in the passenger seat, but Adame told police that Banda was driving when the accident occurred about 30 minutes later, according to Chandler.

When Border Patrol agents found Banda’s truck parked on a street not far from the crash scene, he was in the driver’s seat. The defendant failed a number of field sobriety tests and his blood-alcohol content was measured at more than .15 percent, the prosecutor said.

Investigators looked at Banda’s body and found seat-belt markings that indicated he had been driving the truck at the time of the collision, Chandler said.

Humphrey said police made up their mind quickly that Banda was the driver who plowed into the Lake family. Later, evidence was developed that showed Adame was driving the truck at the time of the accident, she said.

Humphrey said Adame — who had been in the United States for 14 months — got confused and first headed south before turning around near the border and driving north before getting into the accident with the Lake family.

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