Former Central High coach trying to undo DUI killing case

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Loren Lebeau had a blood alcohol content of .11 when he crashed into the Maldonado family on an unusually shaped bicycle crosswalk in northeast Fresno. (KFSN)

Former Central High School basketball coach Loren Lebeau is trying to take back his plea in the DUI killing of a seven-year-old Fresno boy.

Action News broke the news of Lebeau's motion to withdraw his plea Friday.

Three years ago this month, Lebeau admitted to breaking the law and took responsibility for trashing the lives of two families.

"After telling my wife and four kids that today I was going to jail, my 9-year-old asked her mom if I knew it was against the law to drink and drive," Lebeau said at his sentencing in August 2013. "Crying and ashamed I said, 'Yes.'"

Lebeau had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .11 when he crashed into the Maldonado family on an unusually shaped bicycle crosswalk on Shepherd in northeast Fresno. He dragged Donovan Maldonado for a couple hundred yards, killing the boy. And then he drove away.

A little while later, he came back and let police test him and arrest him.

"Mr. Lebeau is willing to accept responsibility for his conduct, but he wants all of the circumstances of the conduct to be known and to be sentenced based upon that," said Mark Coleman, a defense attorney for Lebeau.

The circumstances Coleman is referring to are the details discovered during a re-enactment of the crash done by a civil attorney representing the Maldonados in a lawsuit against the City of Fresno.

The reconstruction helped the family settle the case for $1.25 million, but now it could once again drag them through the raw emotions of the criminal case.

"This reconstruction shows that a normal person in normal circumstances, not being under the influence wouldn't have seen the Maldonado family in time to stop," Coleman said.

In other words, it doesn't change a lot of the facts -- that Lebeau was under the influence and that he left the scene. But if a judge allows him to withdraw his plea, the case basically starts from scratch.

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the re-enactment could call into question whether Lebeau acted with gross negligence, but withdrawing his plea is risky.

"He could end up with more time because a jury could feel there are more facts there that make this worse than what it was in the beginning," Capozzi said.

Without gross negligence, Lebeau could get as much as three years knocked off the sentence he's serving now. So with good behavior, he could get out in early 2021, instead of 2024.

If he went to trial now and got convicted, Lebeau could face an extra six years, staying in prison at least through 2028.
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