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Venice boardwalk crash: Man ordered to stand trial

Nathan Campbell, who is suspected of driving into a crowd of people on the Venice Beach boardwalk on Aug. 3, 2013, appears in court on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

January 8, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A 38-year-old driver has been ordered to stand trial Wednesday for plowing into a crowd of people on the Venice boardwalk last summer.

Nathan Louis Campbell was driving at a high rate of speed when he raced through the boardwalk on Aug. 3., killing Alice Gruppioni, a 32-year-old Italian newlywed who was on her honeymoon, and injuring more than a dozen others.

The Colorado transient has been charged with one count of murder, 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of hit-and-run. Seven counts were dropped. The charges include a special allegation of using a car as a deadly weapon.

Campbell's lawyer, Phillip Dube, argued that the murder charge should be dropped because there was no intent to kill the woman, claiming the incident was an accident.

"He freaked out. She was on the hood of the car," Dube said. "He never intended to hurt anybody or kill anybody. He's not homicidal. He has no violence in his history. It's just a very sad hard luck story."

But Superior Court Judge Antonio Barretto rejected that argument. Witnesses described seeing the vehicle zigzagging down the boardwalk as if the driver was intentionally aiming for tourists and vendors.

Dube says Campbell panicked after he struck Gruppioni and was just trying to get off the boardwalk.

Outside the courthouse, Dube told reporters that his defense would be based on the fact that the used car Campbell was driving had been recalled, and that mechanical issues with the car were to blame.

If convicted, Campbell faces life in prison. He will return to court on Jan. 22 for an arraignment hearing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.