An attorney already facing sentencing for a drug-fueled collision that killed a bicyclist in Mission Viejo pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a new charge of possessing an anti-anxiety drug while in jail.
Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti, 41, of Rancho Santa Margarita made an open plea March 10, meaning there was no guarantee what her punishment would be for felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The sentencing range is 16 months to four years in prison.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was scheduled to be sentenced for the manslaughter, but Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones rescheduled the hearing for June 19.
An attorney from the Orange County Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent Fakhrai-Bayrooti on the new charge.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti had been free on $100,000 bail since September 2013. But when defense attorney William Weinberg convinced the judge at a May 8 hearing that he needed more time to prepare for his client’s sentencing, Jones ordered the defendant jailed.
Weinberg said he did not receive a probation report until the morning of the May 8 hearing. On Wednesday, the attorney said he needed more time to incorporate a psychiatric expert’s opinion into a sentencing brief.
The defendant is now facing a felony count of possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility. Deputy District Attorney Stephen Cornwell alleged the defendant was caught in possession of Clonazepam — an anti-anxiety drug — while behind bars on May 13.
At the May 8 hearing, Jones heard multiple victim impact statements from family members of the victim, 54-year-old Eric Billings. Billings’ relatives, some of whom live out of state, implored the judge to sentence the defendant to the maximum punishment.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti, who 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, 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 was driving south on Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo about 6:45 p.m. on March 15, 2013, when her 2003 Acura MDX drifted into the bicycle lane and struck Billings, Cornwell said.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was under the influence of prescription drugs such as Xanax and Suboxone at the time of the collision, the prosecutor said.
Billings, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident and married father of four, owned a construction company.
—City News Service
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