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A San Diego woman was texting and chatting on her cell phone immediately before her Toyota Prius slammed into the back of an idling car on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Westminster, killing the 23-year-old driver, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

But the attorney for Jorene Ypanto Nicolas told an Orange County Superior Court jury that investigators misinterpreted data from the April 27, 2011, crash and came to the wrong conclusion about who caused it.

An Event Data Recorder — known informally as a “black box” — in Nicolas’ 2006 Prius indicates she was driving 85 mph at the time of the 10:58 a.m. collision that killed Deanna Mauer, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker.

From 10:42 a.m. until 10:56 a.m., there’s a record of the defendant sending 13 text messages, the prosecutor said. At 10:57 a.m., records indicate she took a call, according to Walker.

“She’s doing this actively, not paying attention, driving 20 miles per hour over the limit,” Walker said, telling jurors that northbound traffic ahead had come to a halt due to another collision.

Another motorist, who was stopped in traffic in his Porsche, looked up and noticed Mauer’s Hyundai behind him, also idling, for about 30 seconds, Walker said. He recognized the driver because he saw her earlier in traffic and thought she was “cute,” the prosecutor said.

“Then he heard an explosion,” Walker said. “Then he felt an impact to his vehicle that pinged him like a pinball.”

Jack Jeffries has told investigators that Nicolas did not try to help Mauer and instead hobbled back to her car to retrieve her phone and make calls, Walker said.

Another witness — Erica Cruz — will  testify to what she saw from the southbound lanes, according to Walker, who said the woman’s statements to investigators over the years have evolved and sometimes seemed contradictory.

Nicolas’ attorney, Joe Dane, is expected to rely on Cruz’s testimony to make the case that the victim may have caused the collision and was driving erratically ahead of the defendant before the crash.

“We’re going to present additional facts,” Dane said. “Everything in this case is in dispute.”

Nicolas has previously claimed that Mauer caused the crash.

“She veered into my lane, so I avoided her and I hit the center divider,” Nicolas told reporters last year after her first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. “I tried to avoid her and her car spun out and hit the center divider.”

Dane said his accident-reconstruction expert will contradict the prosecution’s theory on the chain of events.

The conclusion of the prosecution’s collision-reconstruction expert “is only as good as the information he’s given,” Dane said.

“If there a flaw in the input, then there’s a flaw in the output,” Dane said.

A mistrial was declared in April 2014 when a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on a charge of gross negligent vehicular manslaughter.

In March of this year, the defendant told a judge she wished to accept his plea bargain offer, but she backed out and hired Dane. She would have faced a year in jail, 500 hours of community service and five years of probation under the proposed deal.

If convicted in the retrial, Nicolas could face up to six years in prison.

— City News Service 

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