CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- An oft-deported Mexican citizen accused of driving drunk and fleeing the scene after blowing through a stop sign and crashing his truck into a car, seriously injuring a 6-year-old boy, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges.
Constantino Acosta-Banda, 38, is charged with hit-and-run causing permanent injury, DUI causing great bodily injury and driving without a license.
Federal immigration officials said the defendant has been deported from the United States at least 15 times over the past 15 years, most recently on Jan. 18. He was ordered held on $230,000 bail.
Prosecutors say Banda's citizenship will not have an impact on their case.
“We treat everyone fairly – whether they’re here legally or not. We don’t prosecute immigration cases at the county-state level. It’s not relevant for our prosecution," said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler.
Banda was speeding west on Camino de La Plaza about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when he ran a stop sign at Dairy Mart Road and crashed his pickup truck into a Honda sedan, police and prosecutors allege.
Banda fled the scene but was arrested about a half-hour later, police said.
Prosecutors say Banda had a passenger who is now being held by immigration authorities as a material witness.
The car that was hit contained a family returning home from a day at Disneyland. Lennox Lake -- who was sitting in his car seat -- suffered a major head injury and has undergone two surgeries at Rady Children's Hospital, his grandmother said.
Doctors are "cautiously optimistic" that Lennox will make a full recovery.
Banda, who will be back in court May 18 for a readiness conference and May 23 for a preliminary hearing, faces seven years and eight months in prison if convicted, said Chandler.