DUI Charges for Irvine Man
Murder and DUI charges were filed on Wednesday against an Irvine man accused of causing a crash that killed a 14-year-old girl and seriously injured another teen over Memorial Day weekend.
Austin Jeffrey Farley, 26, pleaded not guilty to one count each of second-degree murder and felony driving under the influence causing injury. He also faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of inflicting great bodily injury.
Farley is accused of driving a Toyota pickup that slammed into a late-model Mercedes-Benz early Sunday morning at Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard.
Ashton Sweet, a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader at Northwood High School, was in the back seat of the Mercedes and was fatally injured. Ashton was declared brain-dead after the 1:15 a.m. crash, but was kept on life support until Tuesday so her family could arrange for her organs to be donated. The teen suffered brain swelling, a skull fracture and collapsed lung, as well as facial, rib and spinal fractures, according to prosecutors.
She was one of four teens in the Mercedes, which was being driven by 48-year-old Mohammad “Mike” Ghaemi, the father of one of the girls. The teens had been celebrating the birthday of one of the girls. Ghaemi and two girls, aged 14 and 15, were treated at a hospital and released.
Another girl, 15-year-old Krista Merassa, remains hospitalized.
According to Irvine police and prosecutors, her injuries — a broken nose, rib fracture, lacerated spleen and lung injuries — are not considered life-threatening.
Farley allegedly made a left turn against a red arrow and crashed into the Mercedes, according to prosecutors.
Deputy District Attorney Alison Gyves said Farley had left his 2003 Dodge Dakota at a friend’s home in Irvine on Saturday night and took a cab with his girlfriend to a bar. The two later took a cab back to his pickup truck in Irvine, she said.
Prosecutors allege Farley had trouble keeping his balance when he got out of his truck after the crash. His blood-alcohol content was subsequently measured at .20 percent — two and a half times the legal limit, according to prosecutors.
Farley, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence on June 18, 2009, Gyves said. He was warned by a judge at the time that if he got into a deadly DUI crash, he could face a second-degree murder charge, the prosecutor said.
As part of the terms of his guilty plea, Farley was also ordered to take classes on the dangers of drinking and driving, Gyves said. Farley was placed on three years probation when he pleaded guilty to the DUI, so he also faces allegations of violating probation.
According to court records, Farley has multiple citations in addition to the 2009 drunken driving conviction.
Farley’s attorney, Robert Viefhaus, said his client is a “tortured individual,” but said he could not comment on the case since he has not had a chance to review the evidence.
Farley’s mother — Cindy Farley — issued a statement through Viefhaus.
“Our family, including Austin, is deeply saddened by this horrible traffic accident, which has caused such tragic consequences to those involved, including their families,” Cindy Farley said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them during their time of grief. While I find myself searching for reasons as this awful event is investigated, I would personally give my life if it would bring Ashton Sweet back.”
Many students at Northwood High School wore white to campus on Tuesday in support of Ashton and her family. Counselors were on campus to help students cope with news of the crash and the girl’s death.