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The charges against 19-year-old Mia Aguiar are serious.
Early on Saturday morning the Stockton resident was driving west on Highway 120 when she looked over to the passenger side of her car to see where her cell phone was. In the blink of an eye she had veered off onto the shoulder where four high school students were walking – killing one and severely injuring two others.
And she’s now facing a felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
None of those facts have been – or even can be – disputed. The California Highway Patrol took her into custody less than eight hours after the accident occurred. The story about the death of a Manteca High School freshman – 14-year-old Zachariah Gomez – spread like wildfire.
But despite the media blitz that has ensued followed the incident, Aguiar walked out of the San Joaquin County Jail on Tuesday night on the promise that she’ll appear at her next court date in June.
According to her attorney, Gil Somera, Aguiar will likely enter a plea when she next appears at the continued arraignment.
“She was released on her own recognizance after the deputy district attorney, myself and the judge all agreed on the fact that she’s a 19-year-old with no prior record, a citizen of this country with all of her family members residing in San Joaquin County, and is not a danger to the community because of past incidents,” Somera said. “She doesn’t have multiple criminal matters in her background and she wasn’t intoxicated or under the influence at the time of the accident.
“There are some conditions, however. She can’t drive a motor vehicle – and that, in my experience, is probably the best thing anyway. She’s emotionally distraught and saddened by the events that took place that night.”
Somera said he spent several hours with Aguiar before she appeared in court on Tuesday, and that according to her, and contrary to certain reports, she didn’t reach down across the vehicle onto the floorboard to check her phone but glanced over to that side of the car to see where it was located.
In that split-second, he said, she veered off onto the shoulder where she struck the four youths. The accident happened just after 1 a.m. early Saturday. Gomez was taken to Doctors Hospital of Manteca and then transferred to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
Two of the other injured minors – a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old – were taken to San Joaquin General Hospital. The fourth, a 16-year-old, was taken to Doctors Hospital of Manteca.
Somera, who said that he has been involved with the “Every 15 Minutes” program for the last 10 years, will be at Manteca High School today to take part in the program.
The school as a whole has been reeling from the death of Gomez – a student that was well-liked, known for his smile and being active in the JROTC community – and has been proactive in organizing events in the community to help raise money to assist the family in funeral costs.
When chatting with some of his friends in the Manteca Police Department, Somera said that maybe it was time to include distracted driving in the program that recreates accident scenes and mimics the death of actual students to dissuade them from drinking and driving.
“This was a girl that woke up that morning without any thought that she was going to hurt or kill anybody,” he said. “The lives of everybody involved in this are forever changed. Out of all of the cases that I’ve done – and I’ve been an attorney for plaintiffs and as a defense attorney – these are the most difficult because you see the pain.
“Naturally Aguiar and her family offer their deepest condolences to the Gomez family during this difficult time. And we ask that people recognize that Mia is going through a lot as well.”