Verdict reached in trial of deportee accused of DUI crash, injuring boy

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SAN DIEGO - A jury Tuesday deadlocked on felony hit-and-run and DUI charges in the trial of an oft-deported Mexican citizen accused of driving drunk and causing a crash in San Ysidro that seriously injured a 6-year-old boy.

Jurors however, convicted 39-year-old Constantino Banda of misdemeanor vandalism, battery and driving without a license.

"They heard the evidence, they considered it, there were a few jurors that did not feel they were fully convinced beyond a reasonable doubt as to his guilt," said Christopher Chandler District Attorney.

Chandler said the jury deadlocked 8 to 4 when it came to felony charges of hit and run and other DUI charges.

“We just felt like we were so close," said Ingrid Lake.

Lake is the mother of 6-year old Lennox Lake who suffered major head injuries in the crash.

The Lakes said they had prepared for the day, but in many ways still found it painful.

"It’s hard to just walk away from like there’s nothing at the end of the day and we have to start over," said Benjamin Lake, Lennox's Father.  "It’s interesting they can find guilty for battery, but not link it to the rest of the case that’s hard for me."

Banda's attorney maintained during the trial that Banda wasn't behind the wheel at the time of the collision that injured Lennox Lake. But Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler said in his opening statement that Banda was driving when his truck blew through a stop sign at Camino de la Plaza and Dairy Mart Road and T-boned a Honda Accord carrying the 6-year-old and his parents as they returned home from a day at Disneyland.

Chandler said Banda, his brother and a man who worked for the defendant, Jorge Adame Ariza, had been at a Chula Vista seafood restaurant/bar watching a boxing match before the crash, which occurred about 11:20 p.m. on May 6.

Banda's estranged wife and her friend were also at the eatery, and the defendant flattened the tires on the friend's vehicle and another car before leaving, the prosecutor said. The defendant also grabbed the friend of his estranged wife, and a bystander who intervened got into a fistfight with Banda, according to Chandler.

Constantino "Manuel" Banda Acosta

Adame drove away with Banda in the passenger seat, but Adame told police that Banda was behind the wheel when the accident occurred about a half-hour later, Chandler told the jury.

When Border Patrol agents found Banda's truck parked on a street not far from the crash scene, he was in the driver's seat. The defendant failed a number of field sobriety tests and his blood-alcohol content was measured at more than .15 percent, the prosecutor said.

Investigators looked at Banda's body and found seat belt markings that indicated he had been driving the truck at the time of the collision, according to the prosecutor.

But Deputy Public Defender Juliana Humphrey said police made up their mind quickly that Banda was the driver who plowed into the Lake family. Later, evidence was developed that showed Adame was the driver of the truck at the time of the accident, Humphrey told the jury.

Humphrey conceded that Banda popped the tires in the restaurant parking lot so his wife would have to go home with him.

The attorney alleged that Adame -- who was given immunity to testify -- lied and gave inconsistent statements to police.

Humphrey said Adame -- who had only been in the United States for 14 months -- got confused and first headed south before turning around near the border and driving north before getting into the accident with the Lake family.

Lennox just started the first grade.  His mother said he's doing his best to cope, but it's still a struggle.

“We found a special program that allows him to do most of his schooling at home try to slowly integrate him into a classroom setting with kids, but it’s tough," said Lake.

Federal authorities said Banda has been deported at least 15 times over the past 15 years.

South Bay Judge Stephanie Sontag declared a mistrial on the felony counts and set a status conference for Sept. 18.

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