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Delay sought in murder trial of alleged ‘coyote'

July 19, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Wayne Robinson on Thursday was granted a delay in prosecuting a man charged in the deaths of five undocumented immigrants in a traffic accident Aug. 20.

The trial of Alfonso Imperial Damas of Tijuana was to start this week, but Robinson, who for the past month was involved in the Blake Mostrong vehicular manslaughter trial, requested more time to prepare for the case.

Superior Court Judge Christopher Yeager granted the delay, setting a new preliminary hearing for Aug. 21 and a trial date of Sept. 18.

Imperial has been charged with five counts of second-degree murder.

Authorities have alleged Imperial was the driver of a Honda Civic hatchback crammed with eight other undocumented immigrants that overturned on Interstate 8 east of Mountain Springs Road on Aug. 20.

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It is alleged Imperial was smuggling the immigrants into the country when the accident occurred.

Those who died were Aaron Vega, Arturo Dominguez Moreno, Plutarco Ambris Ambris, Efran Morales Cervantes and Martin Chavarria Hernandez.

Assistant District Attorney Joe Beard said Wednesday the second-degree murder charges against Imperial stem from what he said was an implied malice, alleging Imperial's actions were willful and reckless.

He alleged Imperial "stuffed" the car well in excess of its transportation weight, which led to the fatal accident.

The delay of Imperial's trial came a day after the five-week Mostrong trial ended.

A jury Tuesday found Mostrong guilty of vehicular manslaughter while driving intoxicated in the Oct. 7 death of Michelle Marie Grady. He was also found guilty of leaving the scene after the accident.

Following that verdict, Robinson told a reporter he would need more time to prepare for the Imperial case.

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

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