Two face trial for run-in that led to friend’s deathJune 30, 2007 No Comments
Two young men charged in connection with a confrontation in Pacific Beach that led to a friend’s death were ordered yesterday to stand trial for assault.
Edward Vitela, 23, and Matthew Lexin, 24, are accused of leaving a party on St. Patrick’s Day to help a friend retaliate against a group of teenagers he fought with earlier that day, prosecutors said.
The men stopped a motorist — who apparently was not involved in the earlier fight — and punched and kicked his Jeep. The driver tried to speed off and ran over one of the men, Timothy Easton, 22, of Encinitas.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh ordered Vitela and Lexin to stand trial on assault and conspiracy to commit assault. However, the judge dismissed a false-imprisonment charge against the pair, citing insufficient evidence.
If convicted, they could be sent to prison for up to four years.
Deddeh dismissed all charges against a third man, Justin Nizer, 23, saying no evidence existed that he conspired with the other defendants.
“It was absolutely the right thing for the judge to do,” said Nizer’s lawyer, Daniel Greene, adding that his client was only trying to help a friend that day. “It just seemed inappropriate to charge him in this case.”
According to testimony, Easton fought with teenagers at a gas station in Pacific Beach on March 17 and was injured above his right eye. He and Vitela returned to the party and recruited others to go after the teens.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund argued that all four men — including Easton — approached a Jeep Wrangler and yelled at the occupants to get out. One of the men, possibly Lexin, kicked the driver’s door.
The Jeep’s driver told police that he and his girlfriend were looking for an apartment to rent when the men approached shortly after 6 p.m. on Agate Street near Mission Boulevard. Easton was in front of the Jeep, motioning with his hands for the driver to stop.
The driver told police he was scared and tried to drive away, but hit Easton, who died about 30 minutes later at a hospital.
Vitela’s lawyer, Thomas Warwick, argued yesterday that none of the witnesses testified that his client was near the Jeep when Easton was run over. One witness said he was 100 feet away.
Warwick and Richard Muir, Lexin’s lawyer, both argued that prosecutors should not have charged their clients with felonies.
“They’re looking for a scapegoat,” Muir said. “Somebody’s got to answer for Tim Easton being killed. This is my client’s best friend. He spoke at his funeral.”
Prosecutors have said the driver of the Jeep was not charged because he acted in self-defense.
Source: Dana Littlefield. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jun 30, 2007. pg. B.3Assault, House Parties