Trial set for man accused in traffic death

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Prosecutor, court agree to raise bond to keep Mexican citizen in jail

A Richmond man charged with reckless homicide in a traffic crash that killed a motorcyclist is being held in Wayne County Jail after the county prosecutor’s office argued that there was a high probability he would flee the United States. An initial trial date has been set.
Rafael L. Lopez, 27, who is charged with reckless homicide, is a citizen of Mexico who has been living in Richmond. After being charged in connection with the May 10 death of Samuel S. Weller of Liberty, he had been taken into custody by Wayne County Sheriff’s office, which held him in the county jail on $25,000 bond. On May 19, Lopez posted the required $2,500 cash bail and was released.
Subsequently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities held him briefly in jails at Brazil, Indiana, and Burlington, Kentucky. After Wayne Superior Court 2 issued a writ of habeas corpus on June 3, he was brought back to Richmond and jailed.
According to an emergency motion filed by the county prosecutor on June 13, Lopez “currently has a removal order which can be effected by Immigration, or Defendant can self-deport by driving to the United States-Mexico border and informing the United States Consulate that he has deported himself.”
In that motion, the prosecutor’s office asked the court to increase Lopez’s bond from the initial $25,000 to a higher amount or revoke bond altogether. Deputy Prosecutor Kenneth Kouns stated that Lopez had asked for a voluntary departure from the United States, which was not allowed, and then he was ordered to be removed from the U.S.
Judge Horn denied the June 13 emergency motion, ruling that the court would hear the prosecutor’s request during an initial hearing set for June 21. At that hearing, Horn set a surety bond of $750,000. In order to be released on bail, Lopez would need to pay 10% of the bond in cash and guarantee the remainder with collateral, according to eskewlaw.com.
Prosecutor Mike Shipman said, “This is a much higher bond amount than is normally set for a Level 5 felony. We believe a high bond amount is appropriate to ensure Mr. Lopez appears at all future court proceedings.”
Shipman said that another news outlet had incorrectly reported that Lopez could not be prosecuted because he was being deported. “The media report about our prosecution not going forward was inaccurate,” Shipman stated.
Lopez is charged with reckless homicide and driving without ever receiving a license. A probable cause affidavit filed by police states that Lopez was driving a Chevrolet Equinox SUV east on Pottershop Road going uphill near Creek Road and tried to pass a line of vehicles in a no-passing zone. The SUV collided head-on with a motorcycle being driven by Weller, who was in the west bound lane.
“The collision destroyed the motorcycle and threw Mr. Weller from the motorcycle,” the affidavit states. The Wayne County coroner pronounced Weller, 47, dead at the scene.
“A download of the Equinox’s Airbag Control Module indicated that the speed of the Equinox approximately 2 seconds before the crash was approximately 86MPH in a 55MPH zone,” the affidavit states.
At the initial hearing, Horn appointed Stephen H. Rabe as Lopez’s attorney. A Spanish-language interpreter is assisting in court. A not guilty plea was entered for Lopez. The court set Sept. 21 as the preliminary trial date.
A criminal charge is merely an allegation. Lopez is presumed innocent unless and until he is convicted in court.

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