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IE family derails drunk-driver's plea deal

January 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The demands for justice by a family are answered as a plea deal is taken off the table for an alleged drunk driver accused of killing a Pomona woman.Word of a plea deal pushed the family and friends of the Pomona woman, who was killed by a drunk driver, to protest for justice. The defendant was to be sentenced Monday on that plea.

Just as the sentencing was getting under way Monday, the deputy district attorney pulled the plea bargain off the table. He said the family had some time to think about it, and they'd rather take their chances in the courtroom. So instead of being released in a few months after pleading guilty in December, 23-year-old Ashley Young will instead go to trial.

"She killed my daughter. She took something from me that can't be replaced," said the victim's mother, Mary Santibanez.

Nothing will bring back Leyna Basua. But after protesting in front of the courthouse all morning long, family and friends finally got the news they wanted to hear: Ashley Young will stand trial.

"We're praying for justice. We're so happy beyond words. We're so happy to get this far, because we thought the doors were closed on us and they're not," said the victim's aunt, Mona Vallejo.

She's talking about a plea deal that was supposed to go through Monday in which Young would admit guilt in exchange for a one-year prison sentence. Not anymore.

Young will go to trial on gross vehicular manslaughter charges and could get four to 10 years in prison.

The crash happened on Interstate 15 on October 11, 2009.

The victim, Leyna Basua, was rear-ended at high speed near Summit Avenue. Not far from the crash, the California Highway Patrol came across Ashley Young, apparently intoxicated, standing outside her smashed vehicle in the center median.

According to the police report, Young lied to the officer by saying she wasn't driving.

She was arrested nine months later, the day after Basua died from her injuries.

The defendant's family left court without making a statement, but her attorney said the prosecution's case has holes.

"There's problems with the case, I will certainly say that. There's problems with proof on the side of the D.A.'s office with her case," said Young's attorney, Miles Clark.

It was a dramatic turnaround Monday.

Still, the family wonders why a one-year plea deal was on the table in the first place.

"It's not right, it's not. People fight dogs and they get two years -- they're going to put this one for one year?" said Santibanez.

The judge said he was reluctant to grant the plea deal in the first place. In his opinion, he said that he didn't think the defendant would stand a chance at probation. He raised several issues, including the fact that Young's license was suspended at the time of the crash, stemming from a DUI arrest just four months prior.