A 21-year-old man pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony charges stemming from a Torrance crash that killed a high school baseball player and seriously injured his father, but arraignment was delayed for a second man accused in the teen’s death.
Tung Ming of Rancho Palos Verdes and Darryl Leander Hicks Jr., 28, of Los Angeles, are charged with one felony count each of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving in connection with the March 7 crash that killed 16-year- old South High School student Jesse Esphorst Jr.
Hicks, who allegedly fled from the scene of the crash, is also charged with hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person and hit-and-run driving resulting in injury to another person, both felonies, and one misdemeanor count each of hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage and driving when his privilege was suspended or revoked.
Ming pleaded not guilty, while Hicks’ arraignment was postponed until May 18 at the defense’s request.
Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Sokolov agreed to a request by Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould to double Ming’s bail from $50,000 to $100,000, and to up Hicks’ bail from $50,000 to $125,000, though both men remained out of custody after the increased bond amounts were posted.
“A life was lost,” Gould said as the teen’s family members and friends looked on from one side of the courtroom and supporters of the defendants sat on the opposite side of the Torrance courtroom.
Ming’s attorney, Richard A. Hutton, told the judge that his client had been involved in a minor crash with Hicks, called 911 and chased after him.
His client remained at the scene of the deadly crash, was “perfectly sober” and had no criminal record, Hutton said.
A 2004 Audi A6 driven by Hicks and a 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 driven by Ming were northbound on Crenshaw Boulevard when the drivers failed to stop for a red light and crashed into the Esphorsts’ 2000 Toyota Sienna, which was turning left from southbound Crenshaw Boulevard to eastbound Crest Road about 10 p.m., according to Torrance police.
The Audi and Mercedes had been involved in a minor collision earlier, and the driver of the Mercedes was following the Audi when both motorists ran the red light, and both vehicles hit the Toyota van, police said.
“After the collision, the Audi fled northbound on Crenshaw and the driver of the Mercedes GLK350 stayed at the scene,” according to a Torrance police statement. Investigators said the Audi was located a short time later near the scene, unoccupied.
Ming was arrested that morning, then released later that day on bond. Hicks was arrested two days after the crash, and was released a day later on bond.
If convicted as charged, Hicks faces more than 12 years in prison, while Ming faces up to nine years, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Baseball coach Grady Sain told the Daily Breeze the teen and his father had been on their way home after having dinner with the boy’s grandmother.
A day after the crash, the baseball team gathered on the diamond around the teen’s shortstop position, and that afternoon, about 750 current and former students, coaches and faculty members filled the South High field in his honor.
—City News Service
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