Teenagers accused in August hit-and-run death
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The attorney representing a teenager accused in a deadly crime spree argued for the charges against the teen to be dropped on Tuesday.
Clark County District Court Judge Jacqueline Bluth declined to drop the charges after hearing impassioned arguments from both the defense attorney and a prosecutor.
Clark County Public Defender David Westbrook raised concerns about media coverage as the case has gained international attention. Video from the alleged crime spree on Aug. 14 showed two bicyclists appearing to be intentionally hit in separate locations.
The second cyclist, Andreas Probst, 64, did not survive. He was a retired police chief from California.
Las Vegas Metro police identified Jesus Ayala, who was 17 at the time, as the driver who swerved into Probst. Jzamir Keys, who was 16 at the time, was the passenger who recorded the cell phone video, according to police.
The first cyclist, a 72-year-old man, survived. Keys was the driver and Ayala was the passenger recording video, according to police.
The grand jury previously indicted Ayala and Keys on the following charges, which carry enhancements because the victims were over the age of 60: murder with use of a deadly weapon, attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon, battery with use of a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm, and two counts of duty to stop at the scene of a crash involving death or personal injury.
Additional charges without the enhancement include battery with use of a deadly weapon, residential burglary, three counts of grand larceny auto and three counts of possession of a stolen vehicle. All of the charges are felonies.
Ayala was also charged with gross misdemeanor possession of burglary tools. The teens are accused of stealing three cars which were all Hyundai models.
The teens were indicted after the case had already received media coverage.
Westbrook represents Ayala.
“The media coverage in this case has been fast and furious. It has been not just local but national and international,” Westbrook said in court.
Westbrook said he was concerned about a bias among the jurors and argued that it was an issue Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani should have addressed during grand jury proceedings.
“The idea that I need to go in front of the grand jury and ask them, ‘Hey, have you seen this in the news? Anyone have an issue with this case?’ is ridiculous. There is no procedure to do that. I am not going to bring every case that the [Review-Journal] decides or Channel 8 decides to do a story on to this chief judge,” Giordani responded. “That’s implausible.”
Westbrook also said that he received death threats after a photo taken from a previous court appearance showed him and Ayala smiling while they were in court. He insisted the photo was taken two hours before Ayala was actually before the judge and that they were not laughing about the criminal case.
Also at a previous court appearance, the widow and daughter of Probst said that the teens flipped them off. The teens were also seen laughing and looking at them as they left the courtroom.
“Moving forward that will be the expectation that we will all treat each other with dignity and respect during this process,” Bluth said. The teens acknowledged they understood.
Medical examiner Stephanie Yagi testified that she had determined that Probst died from blunt force trauma and ruled his death as an accident. However, after a forensic investigator supervisor showed her video footage which showed the circumstances surrounding Probst’s death, she changed the manner to homicide.
Keys was represented by criminal defense attorney Dan Hill who said the family of Keys hired him.
If convicted, the maximum penalty the teens could receive would be life in prison with the possibility of parole. By law, the death penalty cannot be pursued against a defendant unless they are 18 or older at the time of the crime. Life without parole is also taken off the table for defendants under the age of 18.
A trial is scheduled for late next year. Crystal Probst, the widow of Andreas, told the 8 News Now Investigators it was disappointing that a trial isn’t scheduled sooner.