Raymond Morua appeared once again in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Wednesday, and once again his arraignment on murder and DUI vehicular manslaughter charges was delayed as attorneys prepare their respective cases. His next hearing date is scheduled for February 12.
Morua was arrested December 9 after police say he hit 27-year-old Mallory Dies as she crossed Anacapa Street on foot, fled the scene, then crashed nearby. Morua’s blood-alcohol level reportedly measured 0.17, more than twice the legal limit. He was employed at the time as a district representative for Congresswoman Lois Capps, but was fired three days after the incident. Dies suffered severe head injuries in the collision and was taken off life support later in the week.
Morua is now being represented by high-profile DUI defense attorney Darryl Genis. Genis took over Morua’s defense from public defender Deedrea Edgar, and explained to Judge Thomas Adams on Wednesday that he needs more time to review the case.
“It is my understanding that [Morua] will take full legal responsibility for this tragedy,” Genis told Adams. Morua, who stood behind the courtroom’s glass partition that separates the proceedings from defendants, nodded in agreement. After the hearing, prosecutor Arnis Tolks said Genis’s statement could mean any number of things. “I wouldn’t read too much into it,” he cautioned.
Genis, when asked how Morua plans to plead to the charges, stated: “This fateful event resulted in a tragic and unnecessary loss of life, and Mr. Morua intends with a sober mind to make correct decisions from this point forward.” Genis then claimed he has “shocking evidence” — including pay stubs — that proves Morua was working for Capps at the time of the incident, which occurred after Morua left a holiday party hosted by The Santa Barbara Independent earlier in the evening. Capps’s office has stated that Morua was not representing the congresswoman in an official capacity that night.
“The Capps position is nothing short of an outrageous government cover-up, and its only logical outcome is to further victimize a grieving family,” Genis said in reference to Dies’s relatives. “The family has lost a loved one, and nothing can replace her,” he went on, “but for Capps to deny and avoid legal responsibility is itself nothing short of a crime.” Morua has made mistakes, Genis admitted, but is “done making mistakes and will make things right.” In late December, Dies’s family announced they intended to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the House of Representatives. It’s not clear if the suit has been officially submitted.
Days after his December 9 arrest, it was revealed that Morua had been arrested in recent years for two prior DUIs, a previous hit-and-run, driving with a suspended license, and grand theft. Capps’s office said it was unaware of Morua’s criminal record when it hired him two years ago, and that it had followed standard House vetting procedures — which didn’t include a criminal background check — when he was being considered for employment. Capps representatives said they are now working to revamp and update their hiring procedures.
In concluding remarks outside the courtroom Wednesday, Genis said that while Morua “had a head full of alcohol” when he made his poor decisions, Capps was “stone cold sober” when she lied about Morua working for her that night. Dies’s father, Matt, who attended the hearing with a number of supporters, said he feels the congresswoman should have known about Morua’s past problems and shouldn’t have put him in a setting that included alcohol. Of Genis’s promise that Morua would take responsibility for his actions and do what he can to repair the damage he’s caused, Matt said only time will tell if that assurance plays out. “It’s trite but true, but actions speak louder than words,” he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Sarah Rubinfield, Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Lois Capps, issued this statement to The Independent:
“Raymond Morua was not representing the Congresswoman at the Independent holiday party. As many know, the annual gathering is a widely attended event that brings together hundreds of people from around Santa Barbara, and Raymond was there on his own time and of his own volition. Although the Congresswoman hopes all of her employees will behave responsibly and professionally at all times, she does not have control over their actions when they are on their own personal time.
“Because this is a pending legal matter, the Congresswoman cannot and will not litigate this matter in the press and therefore will not comment further at this time. Once again, Congresswoman Capps believes this has been a terrible tragedy and her heart goes out to the Dies family.”
According to The Santa Barbara Independent‘s business department, which sends out invitations to the newspaper’s annual holiday party, an invitation was sent to Lois Capps’s office. Morua was not personally invited, but did RSVP online. The party was held this year at The Savoy on State Street and included complementary appetizers and music but not free alcohol, and required an invitation to enter until 9:30 p.m. At that point, the venue was open to the public.