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Judge drops count against Tony DeNunzio

Santa Maria Superior Court Judge James Rigali dropped one of the counts against Tony DeNunzio on Friday.

Rigali granted a defense motion to drop an alleged violation of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more. The only count remaining against DeNunzio is the DUI charge.

If found guilty DeNunzio will face the same punishment even with one of the counts dropped.

The case was thrust into the spotlight in the days after DeNunzio’s arrest at the Gelson’s parking lot on upper State Street in Santa Barbara. On the night of Oct. 21, 2011, Santa Barbara police Officer Aaron Tudor followed DeNunzio from the Hendry’s Beach area along Las Positas Road to the Gelson’s Market parking lot.

Witnesses accused Tudor and other Santa Barbara police officers of using excessive force to subdue DeNunzio during the traffic stop. Santa Barbara police denied the allegations and accused DeNunzio of resisting arrest.

DeNunzio claimed he never tried to resist, but admitted the police Taser hits forced his body to jolt and squirm.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley investigated the allegations which included viewing dash-cam video from officer Tudor’s police car. She determined there was not enough evidence to file resisting arrest charges against DeNunzio or any excessive force charges against the officers involved in the traffic stop.

DeNunzio did have two prior convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses. Police said any alcohol in his system at the time of his arrest would be a violation.

The DUI trial was eventually moved to Santa Maria to avoid all of the media coverage in the Santa Barbara area.

Both sides presented their closing arguments Friday. The jury will begin deliberations on Monday.

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