Friends, family and Edith Delgado herself erupted in tears Thursday when a San Mateo County Superior Court judge denied a request to lower her bail from $3 million to $100,000.
Before a packed courtroom filled with Tongan supporters, dressed in black, and Delgado’s friends and family, dressed in white, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles rejected a bid to reduce her bail.
The accused, a former honor roll student at Redwood High School, hung her head and cried when the judge handed down his decision, as did those who came to support her.
Delgado, an 18-year-old Redwood City native, is charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in a July 5 car accident on U.S. Highway 101 that killed Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, of Tonga, along with their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36.
The prince and princess were embarking on a tour to discuss political reforms with Tongan communities around the country.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on July 5, Delgado was driving a white 1998 Ford Mustang with an 18-year-old passenger northbound on 101, hitting speeds upward of 100 mph, possibly while racing an as-yet-unidentified black Cadillac Escalade seen leaving the scene, according to investigators. She sideswiped the truck carrying the prince and princess, causing it to roll over several times, police said.
Delgado was arrested at the crash site, just north of Willow Road, and tested negative for drugs and alcohol, police said.
Her attorney, Randy Moore, asked that her bail be revised to $100,000 or $300,000, arguing that Delgado presented no flight risk and was denied her constitutional right to a reasonable bail.
Many friends and family of Delgado testified to her ties to the community and her loyal friendship in an attempt to assuage any court concerns that she would flee.
“Three million dollars is not an unusual bail for a homicide or manslaughter,” Foiles said in denying Moore’s request. When asked if there was any chance of Delgado making bail, Moore said no.
“The three-time honor roll student got $3 million in bail,” he said. “This is truly a David versus Goliath case.”
Glimpses of the prosecution’s case could be seen as prosecutor Aaron Fitzgerald occasionally cross-examined those testifying, asking about Delgado’s past enrollment at Redwood High, a continuation school in the Sequoia Union High School District. Fitzgerald also asked why students attend a continuation school.
After the hearing, Moore gathered the friends and family and reminded them that the process was far from over.
“This girl has family and friends,” he told them. “She is not a monster. She’s a normal 18-year-old girl caught up in a tragic accident.”
A preliminary hearing on evidence in the case is scheduled for July 20.
Friends, family testify for Delgado
Lost in the outcry surrounding the deaths of the Tongan royals is Edith Delgado, a person described by friends and family as an exemplary student who inspired loyalty in others and loved her Mustang — maybe too much.
Both the Tongan community and Delgado’s friends and family said Thursday they recognize the tragedy and anguish involved, noting that with three lives already lost, a fourth has also been extremely damaged.
Juan Delgado, Edith’s brother, said the family feels awful for what happened and “nobody wins in these situations.”
“We pray for the victims the way we pray for our sister,” Juan Delgado said. “It’s very difficult for our family.”
Those in the Tongan community lamented the Delgados’ distress but supported their prince and princess.
“I love the girl in jail, but this is hard to give up. This is my prince and princess,” Foufau Pahulea said. “I love [Delgado], but this is the law.”
Currently held at the San Mateo County Women’s Jail, Delgado lived in Redwood City and may have been headed home when the crash occurred, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Having graduated from Redwood High School in 2005, Delgado worked as a bankteller for Bank of America in Redwood City. She earned her driver’s license in February and had no prior traffic violations.
Friends and family took the stand Thursday to ease any concerns that Delgado posed a “flight risk” if released on bail, testifying to her roots in the community.
Kathleen Vasilakos, a Menlo Park resident whose daughter befriended Delgado at Redwood High, said Delgado used to come to their house and they’d sometimes shop together.
“I loved her as if she was my own,” Vasilakos said.
Kimberly Martinez has known Delgado for eight years. “We’re more than friends; we’re like family,” Martinez testified.