The son of former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado made his first juvenile court appearance Friday after misdemeanor vehicular homicide charges were filed following a fatal accident in August.
The 16-year-old teen is not being identified because he is a juvenile. He was driving a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer on Foxen Canyon Road east of Santa Maria when California Highway Patrol investigators determined the truck clipped a bicycle ridden by 33-year-old Matthew O’Neill from Carpinteria while trying to pass the cyclist.
Another Maldonado son, 18-year-old Nicolas Maldonado, was a passenger in the pickup truck, according to the CHP accident report. The younger Maldonado son faces an additional charge because state laws place restrictions on passengers who ride with underage drivers.
The teen appeared in Juvenile Court on Friday, but did not enter a plea to the charges against him. Judge Arthur Garcia agreed to a request by the teen’s attorney to have the Santa Barbara County Probation Department review the case. The teen will return to court in mid October after that review is completed.
The teen’s defense attorney Cathering Swysen declined to comment after Friday’s hearing. Calls for comment to the Maldonado family have not been returned.
O’Neill was a well-known long-distance cyclist. Fellow bike riders and witnesses said he was riding on the far right shoulder of the road and had reflectors on his bike and body at the time of the collision.
O’Neill was a doctorate student at UC-Santa Barbara. His family released a statement when the charges were filed that said, ” The District Attorney has reviewed the case and we have been informed that her office will be filing charges. We are grateful to her office and to the investigating agents for the time and energy they have spent investigating and reviewing this matter. We are confident that the criminal justice system will hold those at fault for the death of Matthew accountable for their actions. “
The accident is the second time 18-year-old Nicolas Maldonado was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a fatal accident in the area. Two years ago while riding in a car driven by his mother, the Maldonados’ vehicle was hit by another driver who died at the intersection of Foxen Canyon and Dominion Road.
In that crash, investigators determined the driver who died was driving under the influence and had failed to stop at the intersection.