Judge Jean Dandona dismissed manslaughter charges against Francisco Rodriguez, one of two defendants charged with the death of their mutual friend, Raul Ibarra, in a motorcycle accident that occurred this March near the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. According to the prosecution’s case, the three young men were racing one another on their motorcycles, hitting speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour, when Ibarra crossed the road’s double yellow lines and crashed into an oncoming Lexus. Had they not been racing, the prosecution contended, Ibarra would not have been killed.
Defense attorney Ron Bamieh petitioned Dandona to dismiss the manslaughter charge, arguing that two witnesses who claimed to have seen the three men racing were not credible. Dandona granted Bamieh’s request.
In a press release sent afterward, Bamieh noted that the father of the victim had opposed the prosecution of his son’s friends. He also reiterated his previous contention that the defendants would not have been prosecuted had they not been Latinos. Rodriguez had insisted that he and his friends were not racing, that he was, in fact, 50 yards ahead of his friends at the time of the accident, and that the highest speed he’d achieved was 45 miles an hour.
Bamieh, a former prosecutor from Ventura County, had blasted the judge herself, claiming she failed to protect him and his chief investigator from threats allegedly made by Santa Barbara Police detective Jaycee Hunter. Dandona stated she did not believe that Bamieh ever felt threatened and rejected his demand that she declare a mistrial. He then accused the judge of calling him a liar, and demanded a mistrial again on the grounds that he could not effectively represent his client in front of judge who regarded him as “unethical.”