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Lawmaker Faces DUI Homicide Probe

November 14, 2008

A Libertarian Movement Party lawmaker is refining his story – and declining to confirm details he has previously given – after hitting and killing a cyclist, allegedly while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Ovidio Agüero, 55, was traveling on the highway from Cariari to his hometown of Guápiles on Nov. 2 just after 2 a.m. when his car hit 25-year-old Victor Arroyo Cisneros, who was traveling in the same direction, police said.

Agüero has waived his congressional immunity and will likely face trial.

Because he is a member of the Legislative Assembly, his case is being handled by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office rather than the local criminal court. Prosecutor Greysa Barrientos said her office is still investigating the matter, and formal charges have not yet been filed.

Although he told the daily La Nación two days after the accident that he “didn’t have any beer or whiskey. What I had was wine,” he refused to confirm to The Tico Times whether he had any drinks.

Asked about the Nov. 4 phone interview, he said, “What the press says is another thing than what really happened. … Look, we drink wine even in the Legislative Assembly when there are events.”

Per the Transit Police, Agüero registered a level of 1.39 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, well above the legal limit of 0.49. Agüero’s lawyer, J. Pablo Baltodano said he may challenge the legality of the Breathalyzer test.

But Transit Police Director Germán Marín said the test was “totally, completely efficient and reliable … and completely binding” in court.

However, even if the drunken driving charge were thrown out, Baltodano acknowledged it was still possible the congressman could be charged with manslaughter, punishable by six months to eight years in prison.

If the act was committed under the influence of alcohol, the defendant can also lose his driver’s license for 10 to 20 years, though this charge would not affect the prison sentence, said Barrientos. A drunken driving charge alone would carry a fine of ¢20,000 (about $36) and six-month license revocation, said Segura.

Per his account of that night, Agüero attended a cocktail party at a cabina in Cariari with “some journalists,” but the person who had the key to the room where Agüero was to stay had gone to bed.

As such, Agüero got on the road back to Guápiles.

Omar Segura, a Public Works and Transport Ministry spokesman, said the bicycle did not have reflectors. One witness told La Nación that Arroyo had been zigzagging across the road before swerving in front of Agüero’s car.

Agüero, two and a half years into his first four-year term, said the event has affected him greatly. “From Monday (after the accident) to Thursday, I practically didn’t know where I was. … This is traumatizing.

“These are accidental situations. No one is doing anything premeditated,” he said. “An accident can happen to anybody who’s in the street.”

He said he made the decision to waive his immunity “to comply with the judicial process … regarding all my cases.”

Although the plurality of those supposed cases is precisely one of the looming questions.

The family of José Antonio Solano Rojas has come forward recently in the news media with an account in which Agüero allegedly hit and killed José, then 27, as the victim walked on the road in 1991, but Agüero, then a commercial farmer, was never tried.

Agüero, for his part, declined to confirm the account.

“This (2008 case) is the first time I’ve faced a criminal charge,” he said.

Asked specifically if he ever was involved in another accident involving a cyclist, he said, “There are things I can’t say now due to my lawyer’s recommendations. … After (the trial), we’ll talk.”

Judicial Branch press director Fabián Barrantes confirmed a manslaughter charge was filed against Agüero in 1991; however, the file was one of some 500 lost in a 1993 fire that consumed the Guápiles Criminal Court and local Judicial Investigation Police office.

Libertarian faction head Luis Barrantes said the party has not asked Agüero to resign. “There has to be due process. You can’t judge before the trial’s taken place.”

hsonneland@ticotimes.net

 

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