San Juan Capistrano hit-and-run suspect pleads not guilty

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Andrew Michaels, 19, appeared in court Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, for a hit-and-run that killed a man in San Juan Capistrano. (KABC)

A 19-year-old driver was arraigned in court Tuesday afternoon for the hit-and-run crash that killed a skateboarder in San Juan Capistrano.

Andrew Michaels stood before a judge in Santa Ana as he was charged with felony hit and run with death.

According to his attorney, Michaels confided in his parents, who he lives with in Laguna Niguel. The day after the crash, his parents drove him to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

The 19-year-old is accused of hitting 23-year-old Cesar Medina Friday night as the victim crossed northbound on Del Obispo Street.

"He was dragged for approximately 100 feet," said prosecutor Stephen Cornwell.

Medina later died in the hospital.

"It's a horrific tragedy that everybody recognizes," said Michaels' defense attorney Dana Cole in court. "This is an issue of panic as opposed to anything else."

But the prosecutor said Michaels had time to think. He said the driver allegedly texted back and forth with a witness who asked him multiple times to turn himself in.

"This isn't an issue of momentary panic, this is something where he had a good deal of time to consider his actions and chose not to turn himself in," said Cornwell.

Medina was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where his sister Jennifer was working in the trauma unit. She said it was her worst nightmare come true.

She talked about her little brother at a small memorial held after his death.

"He just loves to take care of people. He loves to take care of the people he loves. He was just such a good soul," said Jennifer Medina as she cried.

"The family feels completely terrible and horrible," said Cole. "They would love to reach out to the victim's family and do whatever they can to help that family".

Michael's attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

The prosecutor asked for bail to remain at $500,000, claiming Michaels poses a flight risk and a danger to the public, after being overheard making an alleged threat about a witness.

"It was a statement he made about how this certain person is a dead man for presumably talking with the police," said Cornwell.

The judge set bail at $250,000, which is double the bail schedule for felony hit and run with death.

Michaels is expected to be back in court Oct. 15.

As of Tuesday, Medina's family raised over $12,000 on a GoFundMe page for him.

Related Topics:
hit and runarraignmentcourtSan Juan CapistranoOrange County
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