A Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department custody lieutenant entered a not-guilty plea to charges stemming an alleged drunken driving crash on Highway 154 that sent multiple people to the hospital with significant injuries.

Walking with crutches, Javier Antunez, 44, of Goleta, made his first court appearance for the case Wednesday morning, after an October hearing was delayed due to his medical condition involving his injuries from the crash.

Antunez has been criminally charged in connection with the head-on crash involving three vehicles on Highway 154 on Sept. 14 near Lake Cachuma.

He faces a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, and felony driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or more, causing injury, in addition to an enhancement for causing great bodily injury to five other people, according the criminal complaint.

The California Highway Patrol said Antunez was driving eastbound in a BMW with one passenger and crashed head-on into a westbound Toyota Tacoma driven by a Santa Barbara man. 

The driver of a third vehicle, a 28-year-old Santa Barbara woman at the wheel of a westbound Jeep, could not avoid the wreckage and struck the back of the Toyota.

The drivers and passengers from two of the vehicles were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of various injuries following the crash, authorities said.

Antunez and his passenger, Esther Emiko Trejo, 48, of Santa Barbara, both suffered major injuries.

Judith Hall, 43, of Santa Barbara, a passenger in the Toyota, was airlifted by a CalStar medical helicopter to the hospital for treatment of major injuries.

The Toyota driver, Enrique Calderon-Mendez, 43, of Santa Barbara, had minor injuries, and two other passengers in that vehicle had moderate injuries: Dolores Gutierrez, 60, and Evelia Dominguez, 48, both of Santa Barbara.

Officials confirmed Antunez worked as a Sheriff’s Department custody lieutenant at the Main Jail, and had been employed by the agency since 1999. 

He was off-duty at the time of the collision, authorities added.

Attorney Josh Lynn represented Antunez for the hearing Wednesday while Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Kline appeared to represent the prosecution. 

The California Attorney General’s Office agreed to handle the case to avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest since an employee of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office was critically injured in the crash. 

After entering the pleas and withdrawing a warrant that had been issued as a precaution, Judge Gustavo Lavayen asked the attorneys when they wanted to return.

“The case is complicated as the court is aware,” Lynn said. 

The judge ordered Antunez to return Jan. 9 to Department 6 where a date for the preliminary hearing may be set.

Antunez remains out of a custody on $150,000 bail. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.