Trial begins today for Edith Delgado 

The long-anticipated trial of Edith Delgado, the 19-year-old Redwood City woman accused of driving recklessly in a crash that killed two members of the Tongan royal family and their driver, is scheduled to begin today.

Prosecutors say on July 5, 2006, Delgado was "dangerously" switching lanes in her Ford Mustang on U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park. She was allegedly driving in excess of 85 mph when she struck the sport utility vehicle carrying the royal couple as she tried to pass. The SUV rolled over several times, killing the three passengers.

Delgado faces up to eight years in prison for the deaths of Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, who were on a diplomatic mission, and their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36, an East Palo Alto resident. Delgado was arrested at the scene for reckless driving and subsequently passed sobriety tests.

Prosecutors have said that at the time of the crash, witnesses reported seeing her racing a black Cadillac Escalade.

Prosecutors are not saying whether there are any suspects in the racing incident.

"We expect the trial to begin as planned," said Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who believes jury selection and opening statements may be completed by the end of the day today. The trial start date of March 19 was delayed because an expert witness for the defense was hospitalized with a serious illness.

Delgado has pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. She has been in custody on $1 million bail, which has been reduced since her initial bail was set at $3 million.

Delgado’s attorney, Randy Moore — who has not returned recent calls for comment — said in a February interview that the incident was a tragic traffic accident and that Delgado was not recklessly speeding.

"There were allegations that either she was racing her car down the roadway or that she was going at speeds of 90 mph and all of those allegations have triggered the prosecution in this case. It’s not true that she was racing," Moore said in the interview. "This was just an accident. It wasn’t gross negligence and it wasn’t criminal."

bfoley@examiner.com

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