A Laguna Niguel teen should face charges for falsely claiming to be the driver in a Nevada crash that killed five, a lie that helped the real driver evade DUI testing and prosecution, said Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
On Wednesday, Spitzer sent a letter urging Clark County District Attorney Steven Wolfson to prosecute Jean Soriano, 18, for his part in the March 30 wreck.
At the time, Soriano was an escapee from Orange County’s Youth Guidance Center. On the night of the crash, he told investigators he was the driver who rear-ended a minivan, killing five members of a family ― Genaro Fernandez, 41, of Norwalk; Raudel Fernandez-Avila, 49, and Belen Fernandez, 53, both of Lynwood; and Angela Sandoval, 13, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, 45, both of Los Angeles. However, Soriano was the passenger, and the real driver 23-year-old Alfred Gomez has gone underground, according to authorities.
“Jean Soriano falsely confessed to a crime he did not commit. Based on DNA evidence, it has come to light that Mr. Alfred Gomez was allegedly the driver and the true perpetrator of this horrific crime,” Spitzer wrote. “But for Jean Soriano wrongfully confessing to this crime, Nevada authorities would have tested Mr. Gomez at the hospital that night and would have retained him as a suspect in this crime. Tragically, no one is currently being held accountable for the reckless and senseless killing of five innocent people due to the fact that Soriano falsely confessed and then, based on that false confession, authorities released Mr. Gomez - who has now absconded.”
According to Spitzer, Soriano was cleared of criminal charges related to the crash and was returned to Orange County to face a charge of escaping from juvenile detention. He faces a one-year-sentence if convicted. Spitzer urged the Clark County District Attorney office to charge Soriano with obstruction of justice.
“Mr. Soriano needs to be held accountable for obstruction of justice. The victims’ families in this case deserve restitution,” Spitzer wrote. “They deserve to hold someone accountable for the tragedies that occurred that fateful night. This incident was a public outrage and it is evident that Mr. Soriano should be held accountable for his actions to circumvent the Criminal Justice System.”
Soriano has a pre-trial hearing on the escape charge scheduled for Aug. 16. He has pleaded not guilty to the escape charge.
Soriano’s attorney has implied that the teen may have been intimidated when police questioned him.
"He's a young kid, very scared, distraught," Defense Attorney Frank Cofer told CBS News following the accident.
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