A Rancho Santa Margarita immigration attorney, who has apparently pulled several legal moves to delay justice in the felony vehicular manslaughter case against her for a DUI crash that killed a bicyclist, won her requested postponement of sentencing.
But it was a short-lived victory Friday morning as Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones revoked Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti's $100,000 bail and ordered her jailed until sentencing scheduled for June 10. She had been free since making bail on Sept. 27, 2013.
“She has done nothing wrong pursuing due process in this case,” Fakhrai-Bayrooti's attorney pleaded to Jones, who had allowed the defendant to remain free following her March 10 guilty plea. Fakhrai-Bayrooti then asked to address the judge, but Jones shot back, “No, we're in recess.”
Based on City News Service reporter Paul Anderson's rundown of the case, the judge's decision could have been influenced by frustrating defense tactics and the statements Jones heard from family members of 54-year-old Eric Billings.
The owner of Quest Construction and married father of four was killed around 6:45 p.m. March 15, 2013, when Fakhrai-Bayrooti's 2003 Acura MDX drifted into the bicycle lane on southbound Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo and struck her fellow Rancho Santa Margarita resident. She was under the influence of prescription drugs such as
Xanax and Suboxone, according to Deputy District Attorney Stephen Cornwell.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti's preliminary hearing had been delayed so many times that Cornwell had scheduled a grand jury to seek an indictment, which would have allowed him to skip the preliminary hearing. She was on her third attorney in the case when she made an open guilty plea to felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated–meaning there was no
guarantee what punishment might come from Jones, who is looking at a sentencing range of 16 months, two years or four years in state prison.
But after copping to the charge, Fakhrai-Bayrooti checked into a mental health program and turned away probation officials who tried to interview her before sentencing. That obviously delayed production of the probation report that would be required for sentencing. William Weinberg, Fakhrai-Bayrooti's current attorney, requested the delay so he could review the probation report that only arrived Friday morning. By law, the defense must have at least five days to review the probation report, so Jones had no choice but to grant to sentencing delay.
Jones said he was “very frustrated” by the delay but were he to ignore the defense request and impose a sentence on Friday that would open the door to an appeal that could lead everyone back to court in another year to repeat the process.
Whenever sentencing comes, Billings' family members implored Jones to impose the maximum punishment. They told of one son's wedding Billings missed and a grandson he never got to meet. He was described as a role model who helped a brother through drug addiction and carried extra shirts and sweaters in his car to give out to people shivering in the cold.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti wept softly during the statements made by Billings' relatives, Anderson reports.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.