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Murder charges dismissed against driver in fatal big rig crash

October 9, 2009 |  2:32 pm

Murder charges were dismissed today against a commercial truck driver whose runaway big rig killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter in La Cañada Flintridge in April, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Pasadena Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench dismissed the two counts of murder on which a county grand jury had indicted Marcos Barbosa Costa on June 11, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman in the district attorney's office.

“She found there was insufficient evidence to prove implied malice,” Robison said. “We are reviewing whether to appeal that decision.”

Robison said prosecutors had received information from an off-duty firefighter, who had been traveling behind Costa prior to the accident, that he had warned the truck driver that the road was steep, he was traveling too fast, and the truck’s brakes were smoking.

Prosecutors believe that Costa had received notice that could have helped him avoid crashing, Robison said.

Steve Meister, Costa’s attorney, who in earlier interviews had called the murder charges “ridiculous,” praised the judge’s decision. He said an appeal would be “ill-advised” and would likely fail.

“I applaud the court’s ruling today, because the court looked at the facts and the law, and determined that this was not a murder,” said Meister. “I have always believed this was not murder.”

Meister said that Costa, a 44-year-old Massachusetts resident, "heard the ruling with relief."

"But is he is still very sober about the whole case, and very serious," said Meister. "He is very mindful that two people lost their lives and many were injured, and he is deeply pained by that."

Costa could have faced a life sentence with the possibility of parole if he had been convicted of murder. He still faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the April 1 deaths of Angel Posca and his daughter, Angelina, Robison said.

They were killed when the trucker’s out-of-control vehicle barreled into several cars on Angeles Crest Highway.

In addition, Costa is charged with three counts of reckless driving, causing injury to three victims. Two of the victims suffered concussions; the third sustained a bone fracture. If convicted, these charges carry a penalty of more than eight years in prison, Robison said.

"We can debate whether it is reckless driving, manslaughter, or a crime at all," Meister said. "What we know for sure is that it is not murder."

Costa is being held on $600,000 bail, which was reduced in July from $2 million. Meister said he would seek further bail reduction at an Oct. 20 hearing, based on the dismissal of the murder charges.

The April tragedy prompted the California Department of Transportation to impose a 90-day ban on five-axle trucks traveling down Angeles Crest Highway to the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge.

The travel restrictions came amid criticism that Caltrans had not done enough to improve safety on the mountain highway after a big-rig accident last year in the same area.

-- Ann M. Simmons 

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