Irvine man accused of murder in crash that killed cheerleader

A convicted drunk driver pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday in the death of an Irvine cheerleader killed over Memorial Day weekend as she rode home from a party with friends.

Dressed in a jail-issued jumpsuit, Austin Jeffrey Farley, 26, of Irvine stood with two defense attorneys as a judge read the charges accusing him of murder, driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury.

Farley is accusing of slamming his pickup truck into a Mercedes-Benz early Sunday, killing Ashton Sweet, 14, a freshman at Northwood High School.

She and three other girls were returning from a friend’s party, driven by one of their fathers, Michael Ghaemi. The three girls were injured.


Farley is believed to have been making an illegal left turn on a red light and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.20% — 2 1/2 times the legal limit, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Court records show that Farley has a history of driving-related convictions. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and battery on a police officer or emergency worker, according to the Orange County courts online database.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license and refusing to submit to a chemical test for driving under the influence.

Farley, who is being held on $1-million bail, faces a potential sentence of 20 years to life in prison if convicted on all counts.

Ashton was determined to be brain-dead at 5 a.m. Sunday after suffering traumatic brain injury, brain swelling, a skull fracture, collapsed lung, and facial, rib and spinal fractures in the crash, which occurred about 1 a.m. near Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard. She was kept on life support until her organs could be donated.