Jury selection for the trial of a felon accused of driving drunk and causing a collision that killed two people north of Desert Center is expected to get underway next week.
Austin Bly Ellington, 21, of Anza, faces a maximum prison sentence of 32 years and four months if convicted of two counts of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter and other felonies in connection with the June 29, 2018, crash on state Route 62, east of state Route 177, according to prosecutors.
Ellington, who was 18 at the time of the crash, remains out of custody on $220,000 bail while awaiting trial at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Jury selection is tentatively set to begin next Monday, with opening statements slated for Oct. 26, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to the two DUI gross vehicular manslaughter charges, Ellington faces one count each of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury and driving with a blood-alcohol content exceeding %.08 causing bodily injury, along with several sentence-enhancing allegations.
Ellington and several others driving in a multi-vehicle caravan were headed to Parker, Arizona, to celebrate the Fourth of July at Lake Havasu when the crash occurred, according to prosecutors.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jackie Quintero said Ellington was eastbound on state Route 62 that evening when his pickup truck entered the westbound lane and slammed head-on into another pickup driven by 57-year-old Banning resident David Brian Chance, who died at the scene.
Mariah Garcia, 20, of Anza, was riding in Ellington’s truck and also died at the scene, Quintero said.
According to a trial brief prepared by Deputy District Attorney Karen Salas, the defendant was attempting to pass another car ahead of him while reaching speeds upwards of 70 mph when the crash occurred.
A video posted to social media by one of the occupants traveling in the defendant’s truck appears to show him driving with a bottle of beer between his legs, which prosecutors believe was filmed during the excursion to Lake Havasu, the brief says.
Ellington and another of his passengers were airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment of what were described as major injuries.
A blood sample taken 2 1/2 hours after the crash showed the defendant’s blood-alcohol content at .08%, according to court papers.
He was arrested on July 17, 2018, at the hospital, more than two weeks after the crash, according to county jail records.
Ellington is additionally awaiting trial on a felony case from April 2018 that include allegations that he discharged a firearm in a negligent manner.
Court records indicate Ellington has a prior felony conviction, although additional information was not available.
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