Trial in death of Tongan royals is delayed 60 days 

A local high school student’s trial for involvement in a fatal car accident has been delayed for up to 60 days to give the district attorney a chance to sift through a list of more than 30 new witnesses brought forward by the defense team.

The decision extends the long wait for Edith Delgado, 18, who is accused of three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter for her alleged involvement in a July 5 crash that killed Tongan Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, Princess Kaimana, 46, and their driver, 35-year-old East Palo Alto resident Vinisia Hefa. She faces an additional charge of gross negligence — an accusation her attorney, Randy Moore, plans to refute.

"The prosecution will not be able to prove that she was racing or that she was going speeds of 90 to 100 miles per hour," Moore said. "In all the evidence that’s been provided, I don’t think there’s a shred of objective evidence that those things took place."

In pretrial testimony, witnesses have said they saw Delgado, a student at Redwood High School who worked as a bank teller, driving her white Ford Mustang recklessly at speeds of up to 90 to 100 miles per hour.

At the time of the crash, others reported seeing her racing with a black Cadillac Escalade. To date, no charges have been filed against additional suspects in the crash, according to Deputy District Attorney Aaron Fitzgerald.

The trial was set to begin on Tuesday, but Moore withdrew his request for a speedy trial on Wednesday to present a list of 30 new witnesses and check the availability of an "expert witness."

Although he wouldn’t divulge his approach to the case, Fitzgerald indicated that Delgado would not receive different consideration either because of her age or because of the high rank of her alleged victims.

"Our job is to treat this as any other case, present the evidence and ultimately it will be the jury’s decision in the matter," Fitzgerald said.

Neither Delgado’s father, Jose, nor Hefa’s relatives could be reached for comment on the impending trial. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he expects many of the 30 people to be character witnesses for Delgado.

Prince Tu’ipelehake and Princess Kaimana were visiting the Bay Area last summer to meet with local Tongans and discuss political reform and the creation of democracy in the nation of Tonga. The nation has a substantial population on the Peninsula and in the East Bay.

While some Tongans both here and at home continue to mourn their deaths — along with the death of King Taufa’ahau Tupou, who succumbed to ill health last September — many have let it go, said Eleni Aho, project coordinator for the Tongan Interfaith Council.

"Most of us have gotten over it and are moving on with life," Aho said. "Most of us still have the pain of the loss, but we continue on."

Wagstaffe said the new trial date will be set on Friday, and must start within 60 days of last Wednesday.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Staff Writer Jason Goldman-Hall contributed to this report.

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