SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A San Diego woman who was expected to plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter in a Westminster crash that killed a 23-year-old woman changed her mind Wednesday and told a judge she wanted a new lawyer.
Jorlene Ypanto Nicolas would have faced a year in jail, 500 hours of community service and five years probation – but no prison time – under the plea deal she made with prosecutors.
After declaring she wanted a new lawyer, her attorney met with another lawyer to discuss the situation. Nicolas’ new attorney, Joe Dane, assured the judge he would be ready for an April 24 retrial.
The new turn of events angered the parents of the victim, Deanna Mauer.
“I’m disgusted with the criminal justice system,” Dawn Mauer said.
Mauer’s father, Howard, added, “I’m appalled, and I’d be really surprised if this (attorney) is ready for trial next month.”
The Mauers said they both plan on attending every day of the retrial.
Nicolas “has been manipulating the system since her arrest and she’s getting away with it,” Howard Mauer said. “Nobody should have to go through this. We were actually looking for closure today.”
Last April, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on a charge of gross negligent vehicular manslaughter. If convicted at retrial, Nicolas would face up to six years in prison.
After a mistrial was declared last year, Nicolas reiterated her claim that the victim — Deanna Mauer — caused the crash on the San Diego (405) Freeway on April 27, 2011.
“She veered into my lane, so I avoided her and I hit the center divide,” Nicolas told reporters after the mistrial was declared. “I tried to avoid her and her car spun out and hit the center divider.”
Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigator Wes Vandiver testified last year that according to data from an event data recorder — commonly known as a black box — on the defendant’s car, Nicolas was going at least 84.7 mph before her Toyota Prius slammed into the victim’s Hyundai sedan in gridlocked traffic just before 11 a.m.
Before Bromberg offered the plea deal on Friday, he asked for Dawn Mauer’s blessing.
Dawn Mauer told Bromberg she did not wish to go through another trial and wanted only that Nicolas serve some time behind bars and “take responsibility” for what happened.
“I’ve always wanted to clear my daughter’s name,” Dawn Mauer told Bromberg. “I’m not so concerned about years of time (in custody) for the defendant, but her taking responsibility for what occurred and not to blame someone else.”
The defendant, through her previous attorney, Daniel Kim of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, indicated she was willing to do that.
“Ms. Nicolas doesn’t want another trial and is willing to accept responsibility,” Kim told the judge.
Under the plea deal, the 32-year-old Nicolas would have done at least half of the year in Orange County Jail, Bromberg said. He told her Friday that if she is found guilty in a retrial, he could sentence her to four years in prison.
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