Driver in fatal Raleigh crash had previous DWI conviction
Posted August 22, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The driver charged with killing three people in a Sunday morning accident in north Raleigh had been convicted once before of driving while impaired and also had driven with a revoked license previously, according to court records.
Jaciel Espino-Montes, 22, of 3652 Stevens Mill Road in Goldsboro, is charged with DWI and three counts each of aggravated felony death by motor vehicle and aggravated serious injury by motor vehicle in the weekend crash on Highwoods Boulevard.
Investigators said seven people were inside Espino-Montes' speeding car when he lost control and hit a light pole, a street sign and a tree. The car then flipped, throwing out two passengers.
Nelson Velazquez, 21, of Dudley, Tomas Rivera, 18, of Newton Grove, and Pau Bautista, 22 of Benson, were killed in the crash. The other three passengers were taken to WakeMed for treatment of their injuries.
"We got plenty people with broken hearts. The families and other families," Espino-Montes' father, Aras Espino, said Monday.
Rivera was Espino-Montes' cousin, according to family members.
Court records show Espino-Montes was convicted of DWI in 2011, when he was 17. He also was convicted twice of driving while license revoked - impaired, most recently in April.
The revoked license charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail.
But statistics show that North Carolina prosecutors dismissed the charge in 38 percent of cases last year – misdemeanor speeding cases are dismissed less often. The rate was even higher in the Triangle, with 52 percent of driving while license revoked - impaired cases dropped in Wake County, and 41 percent dismissed in Durham County.
For example, Rebecca Riley of Raeford was convicted of DWI in 2010. She also has three pending DWI cases and seven charges of driving with a revoked license, all since July 2014. Of the seven revoked license charges, one was dismissed, a second was pleaded down and the other five are pending.
In some cases, the charges are dropped as part of a plea deal; in others, it was because the driver was eligible to get a license back but hadn't paid a fee.
The numbers raise questions about whether the revoked license law is a deterrent – on the road and in the court. WRAL News asked but received no response Monday from some lawmakers about whether the law needs to change for people who continue to drive before their DWI trial.
For Espino-Montes, his relatives wept Monday as he appeared scratched and bruised before a judge. He remains in the Wake County jail under a $750,000 bond, and his next court appearance was set for Sept. 12.
Espino, a pastor in Newton Grove, said all he can do is pray for his son and the others in the crash.
"I know every family is crying now, but we're going to, we still pray for everybody," he said.