A man who has been deported to Mexico 15 times pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony drunk driving in a crash that fractured the skull of a 6-year-old boy.
The parents of Lennox Lake, who was hospitalized after the weekend crash, didn't go to court for the arraignment. "He's a tough kid," Benjamin Lake said. "He wants to go home, to his brothers, his dog, to play on his computer and go to the park."
But Lennox will have to stay at the hospital while he receives antibiotics for a strep infection that set in after surgery, his family said.
The boy was knocked unconscious and wasn't breathing after a pickup slammed into his parents' Honda Accord late Saturday night as they returned from a day at Disneyland. Lake and his wife, Ingrid, suffered minor injuries.
Constantino Banda-Acosta, 38, is suspected of speeding through a stop sign in San Ysidro and plowing into the family's car. According to authorities, he was arrested about a mile away, where Border Patrol agents found him and a passenger inside a damaged truck.
Immigration officials said the suspect has been returned to Mexico at least 15 times since 2002 for being in the U.S. illegally, most recently in January.
Banda-Acosta pleaded not guilty in Chula Vista Superior Court to three felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08% and hit and run, as well as a misdemeanor charge of driving without a license.
His bail was set at $230,000.
His lawyer asked that prosecutors make sure a material witness, likely the man taken into custody with Banda-Acosta, not be deported pending further investigation. The witness is being held by immigration authorities, deputy public defender Juliana Humphrey said.
Banda-Acosta could face seven years and eight months in state prison if convicted of all charges.
Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency would seek deportation for Banda-Acosta after any prison sentence is served. She did not release specifics on his past deportations, citing privacy rules.
Repard, Littlefield and Kucher write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
5:45 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the arraignment.