Jorene Ypanto Nicolas Backs Out of Plea Deal in Distracted Driving Manslaughter Case

Jorene Ypanto Nicolas rolls the dice.
Jorene Ypanto Nicolas rolls the dice.
Courtesy of the Orange County District Attorney's office

In April 2014, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt for Jorene Ypanto Nicolas in the distracted driving manslaughter death of a 23-year-old woman. At her retrial this week, Nicolas was poised to take a court deal that would have given her a year in jail, 500 hours of community service, five years probation and no prison time in exchange for a guilty plea. But instead the San Diego woman told Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg on Wednesday that she wants a new lawyer, and the judge continued the retrial to April 24, when Nicholas will face a maximum six year prison sentence if she is convicted.

New lawyer? Sounds like Daniel Kim of the Orange County Public Defender's Office needed a new client.

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Nicolas, who is now represented by attorney Joe Dane, is sticking to her contention that the late Deanna Mauer caused the crash on the 405 freeway in Westminster on April 27, 2011, by veering into Nicolas' lane before both cars hit the center divider.

But Orange County District Attorney's Office investigator Wes Vandiver testified last year that according to data from an event data recorder on Nicolas' Toyota Prius, the 32-year-old was going at least 84.7 mph before slamming into Mauer's Hyundai sedan in gridlocked traffic just before 11 a.m.

Bromberg offered Nicolas the plea deal on Friday that Kim indicated his then-client was ready to accept because she did not want to go through another trial. But the judge first wanted to get the blessing of Mauer's mother, Dawn, who told Bromberg she too wanted to avoid another trial and just wanted Nicolas to do some time behind bars and take responsibility for the crash.

Dawn and Howard Mauer had a new message for the court on Wednesday, as the mother told City News Service, "I'm disgusted with the criminal justice system," and the father added that he was "appalled," that Nicolas "has been manipulating the system since her arrest and she's getting away with it," and that, "Nobody should have to go through this. We were actually looking for closure today."

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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