Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Driver in accident that killed Amanda Bixby pleads not guilty

But immigration officers escort defendant from justice center after hearing

June 27, 2007

A Lansing man pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning in Leavenworth County District Court to several traffic violations in connection with a Valentine's Day three-vehicle accident that claimed the life of a Tonganoxie woman.

But the man was escorted out of the Leavenworth County Justice Center in handcuffs - not by sheriff's officers - but by two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, according to a justice center official.

The defendant, 21-year-old Ricardo DeLeon Flores, appeared in court for failing to yield at a stop sign, excessive speed and having no valid driver's license.

The court appearance stemmed from an accident the night of Feb. 14 at 158th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40. According to sheriff's reports, Flores was driving his Dodge Durango north on 158th Street when his vehicle struck a Dodge Durango and then a Ford Taurus driven by Amanda Bixby of Tonganoxie. Bixby, who was driving home to Tonganoxie from Nebraska Furniture Mart where she was employed, was killed in the accident.

With about 20 supporters of Amanda Bixby in the courtroom, all wearing buttons bearing her photo, including her parents, Dennis and Denise Bixby, Flores' attorney, John Harvell addressed the court on behalf of his client and gave a plea of not guilty. Flores was seated in the courtroom, but did not approach the bench.

After Flores and Bixby's supporters filed out of the courtroom, Bixby's supporters met with Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl in an adjacent conference room, while Flores and his attorney were greeted by ICE officials. The two ICE officials asked to see Flores' identification. Minutes later he left the courtroom floor with them.

When asked whether Flores was a U.S. citizen, Deborah Owens of the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office said she had no knowledge of his citizenship status.

A justice center official later confirmed that the ICE agents escorted Flores out of the building, and that he was wearing handcuffs.

Flores' next scheduled court date will be trial proceedings at 10 a.m. Aug. 22.

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