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Testimony phase of Mostrong trial ends

July 14, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Testimony in the Blake Mostrong vehicular manslaughter trial came to a close Friday with the prosecution again trying to show the lights on the golf cart were on when Mostrong's van crashed into the vehicle and killed Michelle Marie Grady on Oct. 7.

In the last day of testimony Deputy District Attorney Wayne Robinson called to the stand two witnesses to dispute testimony given by defense witnesses.

One such witness was Tara Quintero of Imperial, who said she was at the "keg" party held in the Superstition Mountains on the night of the crash.

Quintero testified she was a passenger in a vehicle driven to the party. She said the vehicle went down Wheeler Road twice — the first time when they drove past the site of the party; the second when they swung around to try to find the party.

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She said the first time there was nothing in the road.

The second time, however, she said a golf cart and a motorcycle were parked on the road, and she could see three people — two females and one male.

Quintero also testified the golf cart's lights were on at the time.

While she did not know the specific time she went past the golf cart, she did say she and her friends were in the area about 11:45 p.m. after they left El Centro to drive to the party around 11.

Defense attorney Robert Espinosa asked Quintero if she had ever had the opportunity to speak to police.

She said she had never spoken to police about what she saw that night.

Quintero said she called Robinson to tell him what she knew after hearing from friend Blake Reed that Robinson might be calling her.

Espinosa also asked Quintero if she had seen a motorcycle and a golf cart or if she had just heard later the two vehicles had been in the road.

Quintero said she saw the vehicles.

Quintero testified Friday she and her friends reached the party but only stayed 10 minutes because they heard an accident had occurred.

There was some confusion regarding Quintero's testimony when Espinosa asked her to draw a diagram of the area in which she saw the golf cart and motorcycle.

Quintero apparently drew her diagram backward, prompting Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras — under objection by Espinosa — to ask Quintero if she had perhaps drawn the diagram backward. He further asked her if she flipped her diagram would it make more sense.

While she did flip the diagram, and there was further discussion between the judge, Robinson and Espinosa, there was no clear resolution to the confusion.

Also on Friday, Robinson called to the stand Imperial County Sheriff's Office Deputy Rodolfo Moreno in an effort to rebut testimony that Blake Reed was intoxicated on the night of the crash.

Reed testified earlier in the trial that he was in the van with Mostrong and others when it hit Michelle. He also testified he had seen a light up ahead on Wheeler and long before the crash occurred he and at least one other person in the van told Mostrong to slow down.

Reed testified 21-year-old Mostrong did not slow down.

A defense witness testified she had seen Reed drinking and had even seen him throw up at the party. She said in her opinion Reed was under the influence, and, she said, he had told her he was intoxicated at the party.

Under questioning from Robinson, Moreno testified he had stopped Reed as he drove away from the Superstition Mountains.

Moreno had responded to the area along with at least one other deputy, and they were stopping people coming from the "keg" party.

Moreno said he could not remember why he stopped Reed other than the fact he was believed to be driving away from the party.

Moreno further testified Reed seemed calm. Moreno said he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol. In fact, after questioning Reed and those in his vehicle, Moreno let them go.

Espinosa asked Moreno how long he had been a sheriff's deputy when he stopped Reed.

Moreno responded he had been a deputy for under a year at that time.

Espinosa then used the term "rookie" to describe Moreno, and Moreno responded Espinosa could use that term if he wanted to.

Espinosa also asked Moreno what training he had that would enable him to determine when an individual was under the influence.

Moreno said he had training from the academy.

On Monday, Robinson and Espinosa are expected to give closing arguments, The jury will be given instructions and the fate of Mostrong will then be in its hands.

The prosecution is asking the jury to find Mostrong guilty of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and hit and run.

Robinson contends Mostrong was smoking marijuana and drinking beer before he got behind the wheel of his van and drove along Wheeler Road. He also argued the cart had its lights on at the time of the crash.

Espinosa contends Mostrong was not under the influence and was driving in a safe manner along Wheeler.

He placed the blame for the accident on those who had left the golf cart on the road in the way of oncoming traffic. He also argued the cart's lights were not on when the crash occurred and Michelle and those she was with were not paying attention.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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