Rebecca Maez, the woman accused of killing cannabis advocate Jenny "Kush" Friede and seriously injuring her boyfriend, Jeremy DePinto, in a Labor Day drunk-driving incident will stand trial next month.
Denver judge James B. Race made that decision yesterday at an emotionally raw and moving 45-minute preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to move forward. Relatives from Maez's family, as well as loved ones representing Kush, were among those who attended.
Maez, seated at the defense table in a green-and-white-striped prison jumper, wept as police described the accident and the events leading up to it -- including Maez's admission that she had downed an entire bottle of vodka with a friend before the crash. Detective Matthew Buckskin, a traffic investigator with the Denver Police Department, was the only person to take the stand during the hearing. His testimony sheds new light on the accident that took the life of a well-known figure in the Colorado cannabis community.
Piecing together interviews with the suspect and a friend of hers, Buckskin said Maez had started drinking around 8:30 p.m. Friday, August 30, at Primetime Sports Bar, at 10280 Washington Street. The two were both allegedly upset over breakups with their respective boyfriends. By about midnight, the women were so intoxicated that the managers of Primetime kicked them out.
That's when an argument ensued over the keys, with Maez ending up behind the wheel of her friend's white Chrysler Sebring sedan. After the accident, she was pulled from the smoking car by witnesses, who said Maez was visibly intoxicated as she tried to convince them that someone else had been driving and they had run off after the crash. Maez wasn't given a roadside intoxication test due to an injury, he noted.
As Buckskin described Friede's condition when he arrived at the scene, Maez began to sob openly. Race had to delay the testimony for two minutes to give her time to calm down.
She wasn't the only person crying in the courtroom. Friends of Friede and DePinto as well as Maez's family and friends, all dabbed tears with tissues. At one point during a recess in the court, friends of Kush embraced Maez's sister in a tearful, compassionate hug that seemed to even take the sheriffs in the room off guard.
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Under cross-examination by the defense, Buckskin said DePinto was cited for possession of cocaine after the accident but added that special drug-recognition experts at the hospital determined he was not under the influence at the time of the accident. When the defense tried to question the expertise of the drug-recognition expert, Race sharply told the attorney to move on to something more relevant.
The defense then focused on the vague signage and alignment of the 70th Avenue exit/entrance ramp to the HOV lane, where Maez likely began her wrong-way journey, pointing out that aside from some cones, there are no wrong-way signs that light up. Even Buckskin said it could be easily mistaken for an entrance under certain circumstances.
Still, Race decided that there was enough evidence to sustain charges against Maez of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault causing serious bodily injury, both while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. He did reduce Maez's bond from $80,000 to $60,000, but required her to have "intensive monitoring" if she does bond out, including alcohol monitoring, drug testing and a curfew. Maez is next due in Denver District Court at 8:30 a.m. on November 14.
Read more about Jenny Kush in "The Life and Tragic Death of Cannabis Advocate Jenny Kush" and "Jenny Kush, Pot Activist, Remembered at Moving (and Loud) Candlelight Vigil."