An immigration-related sentencing hearing was delayed a second time Wednesday for Constantino Banda Acosta, a man involved in a DUI hit-and-run crash in San Ysidro that sent a young boy to the hospital.
Banda, a Mexican national previously deported from the U.S. at least 15 times in the past, has been in custody since March for violating federal immigration laws. He was transferred to federal custody after charges against him stemming from a 2017 crash were dismissed. Banda faced charges in the May 6, 2017, crash that caused serious injuries to young Lennox Lake.
Banda was initially charged with drunken driving and hit-and-run after authorities said he ran a stop sign at Dairy Mart Road and slammed his pickup truck into the Lake family’s car as they were heading home from a Disneyland trip, according to ABC.
Town Hall reported that “Banda-Acosta had been binge drinking all day at his friend’s house before heading to his favorite Chula Vista restaurant for a few more drinks. But when he arrived, his estranged wife was present which made the illegal alien angry. This caused some sort of argument, and in what appeared to be an act of love as some politicians would say, Banda-Acosta promptly went to the parking lot and slashed her friend’s tires. Another patron walked up and served Banda-Acosta a knuckle sandwich, leaving him bloodied and hurt.
This is where things get tricky. Banda-Acosta’s pal and fellow illegal alien, Jorge Adame Ariz, then picked up his sorry excuse for a friend and drove off in Banda-Acosta’s truck. Ariz was swerving out of the parking lot, according to witnesses. A few miles down the road, the two men ran a traffic light and hit 6-year-old Lennox Lake who was injured and is still recovering to this day.
Lennox and her family were returning from a family trip to Disney Land. The truck drove off and was found by border patrol two miles away from the scene. But now Banda-Acosta was in the driver’s seat, not Ariz. The two men were arrested and scheduled for trial.
Under oath, Ariz testified that he had been in the passenger’s seat while leaving the restaurant property but had switched prior to hitting the little boy. Banda-Acosta testified that he had jumped in the driver’s seat after the crash occurred.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune found that, though he has been deported a ridiculous amount of times, this is the first time he’s been convicted of a crime related to his lengthy immigration history. He has pleaded guilty to being a removed alien found in the United States. But the dispute over the relevance of Banda’s hit-and-run arrest prompted the judge to delay sentencing until he can review the allegations.
The San Diego federal judge has requested an evidentiary hearing, with witnesses and all, to determine whether the hit-and-run accusations should be factored into whatever sentence is imposed on the immigration violation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending a two-year sentence, much higher than the six- to 12-month guideline range.
“Are you saying a greater sentence should be imposed … because the defendant is a danger?” U.S. Chief District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz asked the prosecution Friday.
“Yes, exactly,” answered Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lasater.
“I can tell you, a transcript would not cut it,” Moskowitz said. Instead, he wants to see the witnesses, in person, for himself as the jurors did in the two trials to assess their credibility.
The juries hung 8-4 and 7-5 in favor of guilty in both trials, Lasater noted.
“Although you say 15 jurors found the defendant had committed the offense,” Moskowitz said, “that means nine did not.”
“We’ll have the hearing and see what happens, and I’ll do the best I can to make a decision based on what is before me,” Moskowitz concluded.
Lennox’s mother, Ingrid Lake, said outside the courtroom Friday that she was encouraged that the judge will be taking a closer examination of Banda’s role in the crash before sentencing.
She said Lennox continues to recover and suffers from memory problems and anxiety. What a horrible way for such a young child to start out in life.