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19-year-old to face trial over February DUI crash

By KELLY NIX

Published: August 27, 2010

A COURT hearing last week revealed dramatic new details about the February crash that paralyzed a Pacific Grove High School girl and less seriously injured several of her classmates, including the driver, Aaron Corn. After testimony from police that Corn had been drinking and took a friend’s car without permission before smashing it into a tree off Highway 68, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Russell Scott ordered that he stand trial.

During Corn’s preliminary hearing Aug. 20, officers testified witnesses told them Corn, 19, was driving erratically moments before the early-morning Feb. 21 accident, which paralyzed Chelsie Hill, 18, and injured Corn and two other teens.

Corn, who reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .09 percent hours after the crash, is charged with felony counts of drunken driving, infliction of great bodily injury and auto theft.
 

A Good Samaritan

Monterey police officer Jake Pinkas testified that when he got to the scene of the crash, there were emergency personnel already there.

A good Samaritan identified by Pinkas only as Mr. Kincaide got there first, however. “He did not see or hear the collision take place,” Pinkas said. “But as he was driving [north on Skyline Road], he saw the white SUV propped up against the tree.”
Kincaide stopped his car, got out and ran to the Toyota 4Runner, which had slammed into the tree, to help the teenage victims.
“He instructed them to stay still and not move,” Pinkas said.

When Pinkas arrived — about five to 10 minutes after being dispatched — one of the passengers, Eric Miller, who had been in the left rear seat of the SUV but wasn’t significantly injured, approached him.

Miller “pointed to the driver lying on the ground and identified him as Aaron,” Pinkas said.

He also testified that Corn got out of the car but didn’t make it far. “Aaron crawled out of the driver’s seat and made it about 20 feet” until he collapsed, Pinkas said.

Pinkas said when he approached Corn, who was bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness, he was “unresponsive.”

“I detected that he had alcohol coming from his breath and person ... but I didn’t obtain a statement from him,” according to the officer.

Two other passengers, Matt Wheeler and Ahmad Mahmoud, were also injured in the crash. Hill was paralyzed.

Monterey police officer Mark Shell — who interviewed Miller the day after the accident — said Miller told him that before the crash, he was at the home of a classmate, CJ Veloz, on Syida Drive in Pacific Grove where there was a small party.

Miller told Shell it appeared the other teens who ended up in the SUV had been drinking. “They appeared intoxicated,” Shell said.

A mother’s comfort

The group gathered at Veloz’s house after a basketball game between P.G. High and Carmel High. Hill told an officer Corn invited her to the party via text message.

At about 3:30 a.m., with Corn at the wheel, the six other teens crammed into the Toyota, which only had five seats. Hill was seated in the middle in the back.

Shell said Miller told him Veloz had been sleeping and hadn’t given Corn permission to take the vehicle. Other witnesses told police the same thing.

Miller, according to the officer, also said Corn had been speeding and “driving like a dumbass,” before dropping off two passengers, including one identified in court only as Manny.

A police officer who interviewed Hill while she recuperated in a San Jose hospital testified that, with Corn driving, the SUV suddenly veered to the right and struck the side of the roadway. Corn then overcorrected, crossing the double center line and colliding with the tree.

Corn, who was represented by attorney Frank Dice, wore a red-striped Monterey County Jail-issued jumpsuit and was shackled at his hands and legs. He is being held without bail.

Several of Corn’s friends showed up to the courtroom. His mother, who had a Bible with her, also attended the hearing.

A Sept. 3 hearing is set to schedule a trial for Corn.

Veloz is charged with hosting a party where alcohol was consumed by those under 21 years old. The misdemeanor count violates Pacific Grove’s municipal code.

Veloz pleaded not guilty to the charge in a Salinas courtroom on June 24. He faces up to six months in jail and $1,000 if convicted. Veloz is set for a plea hearing Sept. 1.