FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Murder charges are still on the table for the man blamed for a crash that killed four people. But questions remain as Rien Ban made his first court appearance Wednesday -- charged with manslaughter instead.
The 43-year-old suspect faces six felony charges in all, but he did not enter a plea Wednesday. Ban already had three DUI convictions before the crash on Sunday. Action News dug up details on the two most recent cases and found a major hurdle to murder charges has already been jumped. In 2006, Ban acknowledged that if he drove drunk again and killed someone, he could be charged with murder.
We can't show you the face of the man accused of killing four people while driving drunk, at least from his court appearance, but along with his mug shot, we can show you his initials. The paperwork Rien Ban signed in 2006 is his plea to a DUI case in which he admitted to driving with a .35 blood alcohol content. His initials on the right are his acknowledgment that if he drove drunk again and killed somebody, he could be charged with murder.
"That (what's known as a Watson advisement) may be a factor that plays a role in this case," said Fresno County's chief deputy district attorney Greg Anderson. "I can't speak to that yet because we don't have all the facts."
CHP officers arrested Ban Sunday after the crash that killed Belkys Rodriguez Quesada and her 7- and 10-year-old nephews, Lisandro and Danny. Sena Uong also died in the car Ban was driving. Four deaths. But instead of four counts of murder, Fresno County prosecutors charged Ban with four counts of manslaughter.
"We may amend those charges," Anderson said. "We may add additional counts. But we're going to wait to have the investigation completed and have that information before is before we make that decision."
The CHP's major accident investigation team is doing a complicated reconstruction to finalize the investigation. But a preliminary report says Ban drove into oncoming traffic to pass a slower car, then swerved back into his own lane when he saw a Kia coming at him. The victims also swerved, though, and the results are tragic from any angle. Ban's daughter tells ABC30 the other driver caused the crash, but legal analysts say that's not the difference between manslaughter and murder.
"If he's not the cause of the accident, he wouldn't be charged at all, even if he had a very, very high blood alcohol," said defense attorney Mark Broughton. "He has to cause the accident (to be charged with manslaughter or murder.)"
Ban is now scheduled to enter a plea next week.
The DA's office can upgrade the charges to murder at any time before trial.