Trial Begins for Man Accused of DUI Vehicular Murder in Orange

Jury box

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 40-year-old twice-convicted drunk driver sped through an intersection in Orange drunk while on the way home from a strip club and slammed into a 19-year-old man, a prosecutor told jurors today as the defendant's attorney said her client should not be found guilty of murder.

Sitani Pinomi is charged with second-degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, DUI with a blood-alcohol of .08% or more causing injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drug while causing injury, all felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license. He also faces sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury on the victim.

Pinomi is accused of killing Aden Alexander Uriostegui of Orange on May 19, 2021.

``The only reason Aden Alexander Uriostegui is dead, not passed, but killed and dead is because of the actions of one man and one man alone -- the defendant,'' Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue said in his opening statement of Pinomi's trial. Uriostegui was killed just after 10 p.m. at Tustin Street and Heim Avenue. The victim was walking home from his job down the street at a Starbucks when he was struck in the crosswalk, police said at the time.

The victim's work apron and a bag of food were found among the debris at the collision, Orue said. Pinomi admitted to officers that he was speeding in his 2002 Ford F250 pickup truck when he ``blasted through the victim, sending him 200 feet'' to the entrance of a Valero gas station at 2490 N. Tustin St., Orue said. Uriostegui was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim, who lived at 1800 E. Heim Ave., was seen on a bus surveillance video camera waiting at a stoplight to cross before the collision, Orue said.

Jurors will also see surveillance videos from two gas stations and from a residence down the street, Orue said. Multiple witnesses are also expected to testify, he added.

``Defendant admits to drinking and admits speeding,'' Orue said. Pinomi failed a field sobriety test and told officers he had five to seven mixed cocktails containing seven kinds of alcohol, Orue said.

``When he was asked on a scale of one to 10 with one being buzzed and ten being as drunk as he's ever been he says he's a nine,'' Orue said. ``He admits he was driving crazy.'' Pinomi also admitted to ``smoking some weed'' before the collision, Orue said. Pinomi said he was out celebrating his birthday, which was on May 4, at a strip club at 3020 E. Coronado St. and was attempting to drive home in Orange about six miles away, Orue said.

Three hours after the collision a blood test showed his blood-alcohol level at .103%. It also showed he had marijuana in his system, Orue said. Pinomi was convicted of two separate drunk driving violations in June 2007. He was arrested for DUI on Feb. 10, 2006, and May 27, 2007, and when he resolved both on the same day he was given what is known as a Watson Advisement, which warns drivers that if they kill someone while driving intoxicated they could face an upgraded charge of murder instead of manslaughter.

``There is no question mistakes were made by my client,'' defense attorney Madeline Berkley said. ``But just because there was a loss of life it doesn't mean it's a murder and that's what you're here to decide.''  Berkley added, ``This case is not as clear-cut and simple as the DA is making it ... Just because it's sad and awful and terrible that a young man passed away doesn't mean it's a murder.'' Berkley said her client's ``state of mind'' at the time of the collision ``is the key to this case.'' She added that: ``Finding my client guilty won't bring Mr. Uriostegui back.''

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