Judge rejects motion to pull manslaughter plea for Fresno man convicted of killing 7-year-old while driving drunk

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Loren LeBeau was driving drunk when he hit three members of the Maldonado family in a crosswalk at Shepherd and Millbrook in 2012. (KFSN)

A former Central High School basketball coach will remain in prison. Five years ago, Loren LeBeau was convicted of manslaughter in the death of seven-year-old Donovan Maldonado.

LeBeau was driving drunk when he hit three members of the Maldonado family in a crosswalk at Shepherd and Millbrook Avenues in July of 2012. Donovan was killed, and his father and little sister were badly hurt.

LeBeau's attorney found evidence suggesting no driver could have avoided the family because of the design of the street crossing, but the judge didn't buy it.

The diagonal crosswalk where Donovan was killed was replaced by an underground tunnel after the city of Fresno was sued by Maldonado's family over its poor design.

Their suit resulted in a more than $1 million settlement, and the lawyer, in that case, had a video recreation of the accident made that purported to show a driver couldn't have seen the family.

LeBeau's attorney wasn't allowed to introduce the video as evidence during his trial, and because of that the court of appeals ruled he could go back and attempt to change his plea from no contest to not guilty.

His attorney, Roger Nuttall, tried, but Judge Alvin Harrell III ruled the video wasn't enough.

"After thoroughly reviewing and carefully considering all the evidence regarding this motion, this court hereby finds there is no good cause to withdraw the plea because there simply is no new evidence in this matter," he told the court.

Harrell said, in his opinion, the video showed LeBeau didn't have a case.

"Was it crystal clear, no," he said. "Indeed, it was night time and the driver would have to pay attention to the road in front of him or her, however, it was clear enough that an ordinary driver should have been able to detect the subject in the crosswalk."

The judge noted that LeBeau was not an ordinary driver, but an intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol level of .11.

In addition to being under the influence, LeBeau fled the scene. LeBeau's attorney was not pleased with the decision.

"Not good, I was disappointed in the decision," Nuttall said. "I thought I had a solid position in terms of new evidence that would justify the withdrawal of the plea."

Nuttall asked for a hearing to determine if he will ask the judge to reconsider his ruling. The hearing will take place next month.

Had LeBbeau been granted a change of plea, he could have been released from prison while awaiting a new trial. He has served two years of a 12-year sentence. And, if he managed to get a new trial there's no guarantee he wouldn't get a longer sentence.

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