Sheriff’s Office custody deputy charged with felony DUI involving Highway 154 crash

Emergency personnel assist people injured in a three-vehicle crash just east of the Cachuma Lake Recreational Area on Sept. 14, 2019.

A former Santa Barbara County sheriff's lieutenant has pleaded guilty to DUI-related charges involving a three-vehicle collision on Highway 154 that seriously injured six people. 

Javier Antunez, 46, of Goleta admitted to driving under the influence causing injury and also an enhancement of causing great bodily injury during a hearing held via Zoom on March 29, according to court records. 

Judge John McGregor oversaw the proceedings from Superior Court in Santa Maria. 

Antunez originally pleaded not guilty to the charges on Nov. 13, 2019. An additional count of having a blood alcohol content of greater than 0.08% is expected to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement, according to Jonathan Kline of the California Attorney General's Office, who prosecuted the case. 

Antunez, who worked at the Main Jail, now faces a state prison term of six years, including an upper term of three years for the DUI charge and another three years for the enhancement related to resulting injuries. His penalty also could include a violent felony strike, requiring him to serve at least 85% of his sentence. 

In addition, Antunez faces a to-be-determined restitution amount. His employment with the Sheriff's Office started in 1999 and ended in February 2020, according to Lt. Erik Raney. 

Antunez appeared with Josh Lynn, his attorney, during the remote hearing, which also included Judith Hall, a District Attorney's Office investigator and one of the victims seriously injured in the September 2019 crash.

Kline prosecuted the case instead of the District Attorney's Office to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest. 

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Lynn did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking comment. 

"The agreement was reached after, quite honestly, back and forth for many, many months and a lot of investigation on our side," Lynn said at the March 29 hearing. "I can tell you, this is a [hard-reached] plea, I think, on both sides. I know that this has been just an incredibly difficult day to get to." 

Antunez is charged in connection to the Sept. 14, 2019, collision involving his 2008 BMW and a 2009 Toyota Tacoma shortly after 7 p.m. on Highway 154 just east of the Cachuma Lake Recreational Area.

The collision injured the BMW's occupants, including Antunez and Esther Trejo-Takembaiyee, a supervisor with the Probation Office; and the Toyota's occupants, including Hall, Dolores Gutierrez, Enrique Calderon-Mendez and Evelia Dominguez.

A third vehicle, a 2017 Jeep, struck the Toyota from behind, although its driver wasn't hospitalized, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

It wasn't clear what Antunez's injuries were, but he used crutches during a Nov. 13, 2019, court hearing. 

Antunez's sentencing hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. May 24 at Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria. 

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