Accused street racer pleads not guilty

Posted at 7:44 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 22:44:21-04

A man accused of having his infant child riding unrestrained in his car while leading authorities on a high-speed freeway chase that ended with a crash on a City Heights offramp pleaded not guilty Monday to child abuse and evading charges.

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Jesus Mendoza, 23, faces nearly seven years in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Samira Seidu.

The prosecutor alleged that a California Highway Patrol officer noticed Mendoza drag racing at speeds of 96-97 mph on northbound Interstate 15 near Mount Hope around 10:30 p.m. on May 1.

Mendoza allegedly slowed down and pulled over onto the right-hand shoulder of the freeway near Market Street, then hit the gas again and sped off.

The suspect fled to the north for several miles at speeds in excess of 100 mph before exiting onto University Avenue, where his white Honda Civic -- with its lights off -- plowed into a Toyota Corolla at the end of the connector ramp, Seidu said.

At the crash site, officers discovered Mendoza's 6-month-old child in an unsecured car seat that had flipped over, according to the prosecutor. The baby was not seriously injured.

The defendant's attorney disputed the prosecutor's claims that Mendoza's child was in the car during the chase and subsequent collision. The attorney said the baby had been dropped off at a home beforehand.

Seidu, speaking to reporters outside court, said:  "The information I have is that the child was in the car, in a child seat, unsecured, and the child seat had actually flipped over during the collision."

After his arrest, Mendoza posted $100,000 bail and was released from custody. He was subsequently arrested on a unrelated kidnapping charge, with arraignment set for Wednesday.