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Driver denies texting during fatal OC crash

January 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A driver accused of distracted driving and causing a deadly crash in Orange County was arraigned on Monday.

Prosecutors said 29-year-old Jorene Nicolas was traveling 80 mph on the 405 Freeway in Huntington Beach in April when she slammed into a car, killing 23-year-old Deanna Mauer.

Nicolas pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The San Diego resident denies she was texting or speeding prior to the collision.

"I'm very innocent. Unfortunately it was a tragedy, it was a pure accident and my prayers go out to her and her family," said Nicolas.

Nicolas said her cellphone was sitting in a cup holder at the time of the crash.

"I have no priors," she said. "I have a clean driving record and I have no criminal history. I don't drink and drive; I was not texting as all those allegations have been trying to say that I was."

Nicolas claims Mauer cut her off.

"I don't know if she was in a rush to get somewhere or what her deal was, but it extremely was not my fault," said Nicolas.

But authorities said Mauer's car had come to a stop in heavy traffic and Nicolas rear-ended her vehicle while traveling at about 80 mph. Nicolas did not slow down or hit her brakes before the violent crash, they said.

Mauer's heartbroken parents are convinced Nicolas wasn't paying attention.

"I think she was texting, and this is what caused our daughter's death," said Howard Mauer.

Nicolas said her phone records will prove she wasn't texting at the time of the crash. She is due back in court on Feb. 23.