07/12/2011 08:35 PM by Ariel Wesler
The driver who crashed his big rig into a Santa Barbara home killing a family of three last August will not stand trial. Joaquin Morales, 62, lost his brakes coming off Highway 154 and crashed into… Click to Read More and see additional updates
07/12/2011 08:35 PM by Ariel Wesler
The driver who crashed his big rig into a Santa Barbara home killing a family of three last August will not stand trial. Joaquin Morales, 62, lost his brakes coming off Highway 154 and crashed into a home, just south of State Street, killing a family of three. Investigators had said Morales showed gross negligence because of the poor condition of his truck and not driving safely.
It's been almost a year since a gravel truck came barreling down Highway 154, claiming the lives of three people, including an 8-year-old boy. The devastating crash rocked the Santa Barbara community, but was it gross negligence? After two full days of preliminary hearings, the judge heard closing arguments.
"The defendant took known and calculated risks from the moment he left the tri-county yard," said Prosecutor Stephen Wagner, who specializes in vehicular homicide cases.
"They know that they have no ability to prove that he violated a law," said Defense Attorney Mark Pachowicz, referring to prosecutors.
Both sides struck a deal. Morales plead "No Contest" after the District Attorney agreed to reduced the three counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence from felonies to misdemeanors.
"It is the People's way of actually acknowledging ha the defendant in some instances may have not been as much at fault," Wagner said.
Morales now faces up to three years in county jail, but won't go to prison.
"There's no winners or losers. You've lost three lives. Mr Morales now is going to have misdemeanor convictions. He's going to have to suffer the consequences of probation and he'll probably never drive a truck again," said Senior District Attorney Arnis Tolks.
"This is a very tragic situation but it's not one that he wanted to have happen. It's an accident and unfortunately, the District Attorney has tried to characterize it as criminal," Pachowicz said.
With the conviction, Morales will have his license suspended.
Sentencing is set for September 25 at 8:30 a.m. at the Superior Courthouse in Santa Barbara.
07/12/2011 12:05 PM by Kelly Orsini, KSBY News
According our KSBY News crew in the courtroom Tuesday, the big rig driver whose truck crashed into a Santa Barbara home last August, killing the three people inside, changed his plea to no contest and the three vehicular manslaughter counts against him were changed to misdemeanors.
Joaquin Morales had pleaded not guilty back in April. His license to drive a big rig was revoked. Sentencing was set for September 23. He could receive a maximum of one year in jail for each count.
Morales' truck failed to stop at Highway 154 and State Street and crashed into the home in August 2010. Investigators had said he showed gross negligence because of the poor condition of his truck and the way he was driving.
Watch KSBY News at 5 and 6 for more on this story.
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