Judge Jean Dandona granted Ron Bamieh’s motion to dismiss manslaughter charges on behalf of defendant Francisco “Alex” Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez was facing 12 years in state prison. The charges alleged Mr. Rodriguez was liable for his friend, Raul Ibarra’s, death while they were riding motorcycles past the Santa Barbara Tennis Club on March 2, 2013. The ruling came on the heels of the prosecution resting its case-in-chief Wednesday afternoon. After a month-long trial, Judge Dandona threw out charges without hearing any evidence from the defense, finding there was insufficient evidence to sustain the District Attorney’s charges.
There was an emotional response from all parties involved. Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Alvarez and Mr. Ibarra’s family shed tears of joy. Mr. Ibarra’s family notified the District Attorney’s office at the outset of the case they did not want their son’s friends prosecuted for his death. In a statement from Mr. Ibarra’s father, as documented by the District Attorney’s office on March 14, 2013, Mr. Ibarra told the District Attorney:
[H]e does not agree with the charges, in no way feels the defendants are responsible for his son’s death … He feels SBPD did an inadequate investigation if they have concluded the boys were responsible.
“The District Attorney’s office went ahead and prosecuted Mr. Rodriguez against the wishes of the victim’s family” said Alex Rodriguez’s attorney, Ron Bamieh. Bamieh went on to say, “This case has been heart-wrenching from the start. Alex was incarcerated at the time of Raul’s funeral and unable to mourn his death with family and friends. This prosecution has torn the lives of three families apart for four months. Judge Dandona’s decision to throw out this case is the justice Alex deserves.”
Bamieh has been vocal throughout the case about over-zealous prosecution, accusing the office of treating Mr. Rodriguez more harshly because he is Hispanic.
“Unfortunately, the ruling does not erase the injustice perpetrated over the last several months by the District Attorney and its overzealous investigating officer, Jaycee Hunter. The District Attorney took an unreasonably hard-nosed approach to this case, including a plea bargain offer of 9 years. We said no thanks.”
Although they were not involved in the accident, the prosecution alleged Mr. Rodriguez was liable because he was racing. This racing, the People argued, caused Mr. Ibarra’s collision with another vehicle. Mr. Bamieh argued “Without racing, there’s no criminal liability. What they were doing is driving fast. There can be no criminal liability in this case for driving fast — otherwise anyone who speeds on the freeway could be liable for the person speeding next to them who happens to crash.”
Judge Dandona found the prosecution’s purported eye-witnesses to motorcycle racing J.P. Domjan and Heidi Hullander not credible. Because there was no evidence of racing, all charges were dismissed.
“I’m just happy I was able to use my skill to allow Mr. Rodriguez to rejoin his family,” said Bamieh.