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Local News

Judge Tosses Manslaughter Case Against Motorcyclists

Judge Jean Dandona rules prosecutors did not prove charges against Francisco “Alex” Rodriguez and Jonathon Alvarez Leon

A Santa Barbara Superior Court judge threw out the charges against two men accused of vehicular manslaughter on Wednesday after determining that prosecutors had not proved the case against them.

The District Attorney’s Office alleged that Francisco “Alex” Rodriguez and Jonathon Alvarez Leon of Santa Barbara were criminally liable for the death of their friend, Raul Ibarra, accusing the trio of racing at the time of the March 2 accident on the 2300 block of Foothill Road.

Ibarra collided with a sports utility vehicle while riding a motorcycle with his two friends, and died of his injuries.

Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz rested his case Wednesday, after which Judge Jean Dandona granted a defense attorney’s motion to dismiss all the charges, deciding there wasn’t enough evidence to continued to the defense phase of the trial.

The decision came after weeks of testimony in the trial, which began June 19.

“We respect the judge’s decision,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Wednesday night. “Still, we would have preferred the jury had an opportunity to consider all the evidence and deliberate.

“We at the District Attorney’s Office continue to be gravely concerned about drivers who speed and those who leave the scene of a crime.”

Judge George Eskin, who presided over the preliminary hearing for this case, was skeptical about placing blame on the defendants, but found enough evidence to at least move to trial.

The office of defense attorney Ron Bamieh, representing Rodriguez, released a statement after court Wednesday saying the decision provided the justice the defendants deserve.

All three families shed tears of joy in court, the statement said.

“The District Attorney’s Office went ahead and prosecuted Mr. Rodriguez against the wishes of the victim’s family; this case has been heart-wrenching from the start,” Bamieh said.

“Alex was incarcerated at the time of Raul’s funeral, and unable to mourn his death with family and friends. This prosecution has torn the lives of three families apart for four months.”

Deputy Public Defender Christine Voss represented Alvarez Leon, and both attorneys repeatedly argued that the men were driving fast, but not racing, which in no way makes them criminally liable for Ibarra’s death.

Bamieh has accused the prosecution team of being overzealous and racist in its decision to pursue this case, and has previously submitted motions to dismiss, which were denied.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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