The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the circumstances and aftermath of a fatal hit-and-run accident that happened last year.
In the early morning of Dec. 6, Raymond Morua, who at the time worked as a field representative for Congresswoman Lois Capps, was driving under the influence of alcohol when he struck and killed 27-year old Mallory Dies as she crossed the street in downtown Santa Barbara. Morua, who reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .17, fled the scene and was later arrested.
The night before the accident, Morua attended a party at the Santa Barbara Independent offices. Whether he went to the party on his own accord or was representing Capps at the time has become an issue of contention. Dies’ parents have filed a lawsuit against Capps, claiming that Morua was representing her at the party, which Capps’ office has denied.
After pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, causing bodily injury, and fleeing the scene of the crime, Morua was sentenced in May to 20 years to life in prison. The incident and the actions of staff members in the aftermath have become the object of intense scrutiny, including a lengthy five-part series in the Santa Barbara News Press, which poses a series of allegations, including that Morua was representing Capps at the party.
The allegations come during Capps’ bid for re-election to represent the 24th Congressional District, which includes Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) would neither comment nor confirm or deny the investigation. Chris Meagher, Capps’ press secretary, declined to comment on specifics of the investigation, but did acknowledge the DOJ’s inquiry, saying that the office receives many inquiries and follow-ups, which are pursued as standard practice.
In a statement to New Times, Meagher wrote: “Our office welcomes the DOJ’s inquiry, which will enable the community to move past the false allegations asserted in tabloid media coverage.”
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay