Prosecutors have filed murder and DUI charges against a 26-year-old man who caused a car accident in Irvine that killed 14-year-old Northwood High cheerleader Ashton Sweet. The Orange County Register reports that Austin Farley is facing murder and DUI causing great bodily injury. In addition, prosecutors also want a sentencing enhancement for intentionally and personally inflicting great bodily injury. If convicted, Farley could be looking at 20 years to life in prison.
Tragic DUI Collision
Officials say Farley, who had been drinking with his girlfriend, took a cab to his pickup truck and drove off. He made an illegal left turn against a red arrow at the intersection of Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard crashing into a Mercedes Benz carrying Sweet, three other girls and a parent. Sweet sustained a fatal brain injury. Another girl, Krista Merassa, suffered severe injuries, but is expected to survive. The three other occupants of the Benz suffered relatively minor injuries.
I offer my deepest condolences to the family, friends and classmates of Ashton Sweet for their sudden, tragic and devastating loss. As a member of this Irvine community, I share the shock and grief felt by so many in the neighborhood. The Sweet family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
History of DUI Arrests
According to this news report, Austin Farley was so drunk that he even had trouble standing up after the crash. He was disoriented, smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and could not keep his balance as he got out of his truck. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent, about two and a half times the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent. He also has a long history of run-ins with the law including several alcohol-related arrests. In fact, according to latest reports, he had a drug possession case dismissed just two days before this fatal DUI collision!
Farley knew that driving under the influence could result in the death of another person. He pleaded guilty two years ago to DUI when a judge advised him during sentencing that he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. In addition, Farley went through at least two diversion programs for prior alcohol-related incidents.
Do Not Drink and Drive
The fact that this individual still had a driver’s license shows that our justice system has its flaws. I truly hope Farley is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and also held civilly liable for the injuries, damages and losses he has caused. His prosecution will bring some sense of justice to the family of Ashton Sweet. But, it will never bring back that special person, that loving daughter, and dear friend who is lost. This incident is an extremely tragic reminder of the destruction and devastation drunk driving can cause. Drunk driving affects not just families and friends, but entire communities. For more information about the dangers of drunk driving, please visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) web site at www.madd.org.