Judge reduces bail in Tongan crash case

An 18-year-old woman accused of vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of two members of Tonga’s royal family broke down in tears Wednesday as a San Mateo County Superior Court judge lowered her bail from $3 million to $1 million — still toohigh for the teen to be released from jail.

Judge Robert Foiles said he does not want to run the risk that Edith Delgado would get behind the wheel of another car, since she is charged with participating in a July 5 speed contest that allegedly led to the deaths of Tongan Prince Tu'ipelehake, Princess Kaimana and their driver, Vinisia Hefa of East Palo Alto. Foiles set her bail at $3 million July 13, but the California Court of Appeal last Friday ordered that her bail be reduced.

Attorney Randy Moore, representing Delgado, requested Wednesday that her bail be set at $100,000. He suggested additional conditions, such as that she live with her family and not be allowed to drive.

“The defendant showed complete and utter disregard for human life,” said Aaron Fitzgerald, deputy with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, when requesting the $1 million bail amount. Delgado began sobbing, as did her sister, Marivel, who was seated in the courtroom next to their father, Jose.

Foiles agreed. “If we allow her out on bail, there are no assurances that this won’t happen again,” he said. “To me, it’s an issue of protecting every driver on the streets of San Mateo County.”

District Attorney’s Office prosecutors said in their court briefs that they felt Delgado was dangerous and a flight risk.

Those briefs alleged that Delgado raced with another car at speeds upward of 90 mph, and in “an extremely reckless manner.”

However, Moore, who argued that $3 million bail was unconstitutional, said reducing it to $1 million makes little difference, as neither Delgado nor her family can afford to pay that amount.

“It’s the equivalent of no bail at all,” Moore said, adding that he may consider appealing Wednesday’s motion. “This is punishment before determination of guilt.”

Delgado, her blonde-streaked brown hair worn in a tight bun during Wednesday’s hearing, is holding up as well as can be expected, according to Moore.

“She’s strong — most of the time. But she’s also a terrified 18-year-old girl,” he said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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