A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and reckless driving charges stemming from an off-duty crash in Torrance last summer that killed his 23-year-old passenger and seriously injured two other people.
Daniel Manuel Auner, 23, was allegedly speeding when his car crashed into a traffic pole at the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and 190th Street just after midnight last July 8, fatally injuring his front-seat passenger, Ashley Wells, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Two other passengers in the vehicle suffered serious injuries.
Auner had been jailed on $1 million bail since his May 25 arrest by Torrance police, but he was released on bond Friday within hours after Superior Court Judge Thomas Sokolov lowered his bail to $100,000.
The conditions of the bail include undergoing electronic monitoring and alcohol testing and not to drive a motor vehicle or consume any alcohol.
The judge rejected a request by the defense to release Auner on his own recognizance, noting the “seriousness of the offense” along with the possible penalty if Auner is convicted.
Auner’s attorney, Robert Ernenwein, told the judge that the case involves allegations from the District Attorney’s Office of “drinking and driving” and reckless driving.
Shortly after the hearing, the defense lawyer told City News Service that the case is “tragic from all sides.”
“It involves the death of a beautiful young woman and now the prosecution of a young man and devastating consequences (to) both of their families,” Ernenwein said.
Auner was charged May 26 with one count each of murder and reckless driving on a highway causing injury with an allegation of causing great bodily injury.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had no immediate comment on Auner’s current status with the department.
“Reckless driving can be deadly and no one knows that more than law enforcement officers,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement announcing the charges.
Auner is due back in a Torrance courtroom July 19, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial.
He is one of three Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies to be charged within about a two-week period.
A day after the case against Auner was filed, Kevin Honea was charged with a felony count of perjury for allegedly lying about finding a gun in a vehicle parked at a Gardena motel in May 2019. Honea, 33, pleaded not guilty and was awaiting a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial.
On June 4, Nicole Bell was charged with one count each of assault by a peace officer, accessing and altering computer data without permission and altering, planting or concealing evidence as a peace officer involving a July 2019 arrest in Lancaster. An arraignment date has not yet been set in that case.
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