An Orange County judge on Friday agreed to postpone sentencing a lawyer who pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter for a crash that killed a bicyclist, but he revoked her bail and ordered her jailed.
The attorney representing Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti of Rancho Santa Margarita had sought the delay to have time to review a probation report that he had just received this morning.
Superior Court Judge Greg Jones — who had allowed Fakhrai-Bayrooti to remain free on bail following her March 10 guilty plea — ordered the defendant jailed until sentencing on June 10.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s attorney, William Weinberg, protested the ruling, noting his client has made every court appearance.
“She has done nothing wrong pursuing due process in this case,” Weinberg added.
When the defendant asked to address Jones, the judge said, “No, we’re in recess.”
The defendant had been free on $100,000 bail since Sept. 27, 2013.
The judge’s ruling came after he heard multiple statements from family members of the victim, 54-year-old Eric Billings.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti made an open plea on March 10, meaning there was no guarantee what punishment Jones might hand down. The sentencing range is 16 months, two years and four years in prison.
Billings family members, some of whom live out of state, implored the judge to sentence the defendant today to the maximum punishment.
Jones said he was “very frustrated” by the delay, but he was concerned there would be an appeal of any sentence he would hand down today, which might lead everyone back to court in another year to repeat the process.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti, who had checked into a mental health program after her March guilty plea, turned away probation officials who tried to interview her before sentencing.
Jones noted the defendant was on her third attorney and had mentioned possibly withdrawing her guilty plea. By law, however, the defense is required to have at least five days to review a probation report, Jones said.
After the guilty plea, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Cornwell said Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s preliminary hearing had been delayed so many times that the prosecutor had scheduled a grand jury to seek an indictment, which would have allowed him to skip the preliminary hearing.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a felony.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was driving south on Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo between El Toro Road and Los Alisos Boulevard, about 6:45 p.m., March 15, 2013, when her 2003 Acura MDX drifted into the bicycle lane and struck Billings of Rancho Santa Margarita, Cornwell said.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was under the influence of prescription drugs such as Xanax and Suboxone at the time of the collision, Cornwell said.
Billings was a married father of four and owned Quest Construction.
The victim’s wife, Daren Billings, told the judge they were married for 33 years.
“He is the love of my life,” she said.
One of their sons was getting married tomorrow, “and his father won’t be there,” she said.
The victim’s daughter, Ashley Moffat, said of her grief, “I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but there are times when it physically hurts.”
Moffat was six months pregnant when her father was killed and she regretted her son will never meet his grandfather.
The victim’s son, Adam Billings, said father was a “good family man. Someone to look up to as a role model — the best man I knew.”
Adam Billings recalled how his father would discipline his soccer-loving son when he acted up at the dinner table.
“He would give me a yellow card,” Adam Billings said. “I would have to finish my dinner in the bathroom or garage. I hated it, but I laugh about it now. But that’s the kind of guy he was — even punishment was special.”
The defendant wept softly during statements made by the victim’s relatives.
Billings’ sister, Jena Baron, recalled how the two siblings, who were two years apart, would play in a neighborhood orange grove while growing up. Baron got something in her foot and her brother, who was “small in stature,” managed to pick her up and carry her home, she said.
The victim’s brother, Mark Billings, said Eric grew up obeying the rules while he struggled with drug addictions. But his brother’s “unconditional love” helped him get through the drug problems, Mark Billings said.
“He helped me to come back and I don’t think I could have made it otherwise,” Mark Billings said.
Eric Billings “was the kind of guy who carried extra shirts and sweaters in his car to give to someone out in the cold,” Mark Billings said.
— City News Service