Pictured (L-R): Ashley Young and Leyna Basua
Updated at 2:41 p.m.
FONTANA — A judge rejected a plea agreement today for a woman accused of driving drunk and causing a traffic collision that killed a Pomona woman.
Ashley Conner Young’s plea agreement, in which she pleaded guilty last month to gross vehicular manslaughter, carried a sentence of a year in jail.
Supporters of the victim, Leyna Marie Basua, believed the agreement was too lenient, and this morning Judge Steven A. Mapes said he agreed.
“I was kind of shocked that she was getting a year in county jail with one person killed and another injured,” Mapes said in Fontana Superior Court.
Young, 23, was scheduled to be sentenced today. But at the start of the hearing, a supervising deputy district attorney at the Fontana branch of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said the prosecution no longer supports the plea agreement.
Richard Young cited the feelings of Basua’s supporters — about 30 of whom protested outside the courthouse this morning — in explaining his office’s wish to have the agreement thrown out.
“Our position is to make them as whole as possible,” Young said.
Basua and her boyfriend, John Martin, were badly injured on Oct. 11, 2009 when their car was struck from behind by a car allegedly driven by Ashley Young on the 15 Freeway near Cherry Avenue.
Basua, 26, suffered a fractured pelvis, cuts to her legs, and injuries to her organs. Nearly nine months after the crash she died from an internal infection.
Martin’s left arm was broken and his spine was injured, and he said today outside the courthouse that he still feels pain from his injuries.
“I’m very happy,” Martin said after the judge’s ruling. “That’s exactly what we wanted. There’s a chance she could be acquitted, but I’m willing to take that chance.”
Young’s attorney, Miles Clark, argued during the hearing that the plea agreement — which was approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office — should be honored.
“Justice has to be served irrespective of emotions,” Clark said.
He said that Young was remorseful for the crash, and he noted that the evidence in the case is unchanged from when prosecutors entered into the plea agreement.
“I think the only thing that’s changed is the media” is now covering the case, Clark said.
After the hearing, Clark said it’s “extremely uncommon” for the District Attorney’s Office to try to nullify a plea agreement that it negotiates. He said it’s also uncommon for a judge to reject such an agreement.
“Justice certainly has not been served,” he said.
Young, clad orange jail scrubs, cried during much of the hearing and nodded in agreement when her attorney said she was remorseful.
Her family members declined to comment to reporters.
Young is next due in court Feb. 2, and a preliminary hearing — in which prosecutors must present evidence for the case to proceed to trial — is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Richard Young said after the hearing that he believes Ashley Young’s case will likely end in a jury trial, rather than a new plea agreement.
“(Ashley Young’s attorney) could make an offer that the family and we agree on,” he said. “But I seriously doubt that’s going to occur.”
Four months before the crash that killed Basua, Ashley Young was arrested in Beverly Hills on suspicion of drunken driving.
She didn’t appear for her arraignment and she was never convicted of DUI. But as a result of the charge, her driver’s license was suspended and it remained suspended at the time of the crash.
At the scene of the collision, Young told California Highway Patrol officers that she was a passenger in her car, which she said was driven by a friend who fled the scene.
In a recent interview with the San Bernardino County Probation Department, Young admitted she was the driver, Judge Mapes said today.
Mapes cited Young’s initial dishonesty with officers, and her evasiveness when they tried to contact her for follow-up interviews, in explaining his ruling.
“I wondered, ‘How could the defendant end up with probation with all of these factors?’” he said.
Mapes said he believed Young, if granted probation, would violate it within six months of being released from jail.
“I don’t think she would be successful on probation,” he said.
For several hours before the hearing, family members and friend’s of Basua held signs at the entrance of the courthouse criticizing Young’s plea bargain.
“Would one year be enough for the death of your child?” one sign read. Another said, “Ashley Young should go to prison.”
After the hearing Basua’s mother said she was happy about the judge’s ruling.
“It’s better now, a lot better,” Mary Santibanez said.
While Young’s attorney was being interviewed by reporters after the hearing, Santibanez listened to his comments for a few moments before interrupting him.
“Do you have kids?” she said.
When Santibanez shouted the question, Miles Clark stopped speaking and walked away from the group of reporters.
Martin, Basua’s boyfriend, said he doesn’t believe Young, who gave police home addresses in Newport Beach and Palm Desert, is remorseful.
He said no one from Young’s family has contacted him or Basua’s family to apologize.
“I’ve never seen any remorse,” Martin said. “I don’t know her personally, but from seeing her in the jury box … I don’t see any remorse.”