Julie Jacobson, AP
Jean Soriano turns to leave Court during his first hearing in April.The 18-year-old was previously accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed five members of a Southern California family. Charges were dropped on Wednesday after DNA evidence proved he was not the driver of the vehicle that caused the crash.
Charges against an 18-year-old who was accused of killing five while driving drunk near Las Vegas were dropped on Wednesday after DNA evidence proved his friend was driving the vehicle, attorneys said.
On March 30, Jean Soriano and Alfred Gomez were on their way to Las Vegas in the middle of the night when the SUV they were in struck a minivan, said Frank Cofer, Soriano’s attorney. Five of the seven passengers, who were on their way to visit family in Utah, were killed.
According to The Associated Press, Soriano’s blood-alcohol percentage was 0.12. Cofer said Soriano was charged in early April with seven counts of driving under the influence resulting in death, after “he made a statement to police that he was the driver.”
“We believe that he had been intimidated by [Gomez] into making the statement,” Cofer said, adding that surviving witnesses from the minivan testified they heard an argument between Gomez and Soriano after the crash.
Cofer said the defense made a motion during the initial hearing that Soriano was not the driver of the vehicle that caused the crash and ordered DNA testing. Based on the results, Judge Ruth Kolhoss dismissed all charges against Soriano without prejudice, said Cofer.
The DNA evidence included Soriano’s blood on the passenger’s side console, window and windshield. Additionally, Gomez’s DNA was on the steering wheel and his footprint was left on the driver’s side door when he kicked it open after the crash, said Cofer.
He added that Soriano had been in jail since the hearing in April and held at $3.5 million bail. He said if Soriano had been found guilty, he could have faced a sentence of up to 140 years in prison. Cofer said Gomez’s blood was not tested, at the scene of the accident.
First published July 10 2013, 5:24 PM