The attorney for a Pasco man charged with killing a Kennewick father in a high-speed crash says his client should not be judged by his appearance.
Peyman Younesi, who’s been appointed to represent Miguel A. Paniagua, said the 23-year-old is a regular guy and should be treated like that throughout his vehicular homicide case.
“Certainly the case has had some social media interaction and our local media has been heavily reporting this matter,” Younesi told Judge Vic VanderSchoor. “(Paniagua) wants to be treated like anybody else. He has tattoos but he’s not a gang member. He has short hair but he’s not a thug.”
Paniagua pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to four felonies in connection with the April 2 collision on Sylvester Street.
He was driving at speeds over 60 mph before his pickup "torpedoed" into a car driven by Jason Edward Smith, court documents show.
Paniagua reportedly had sped off minutes before when an officer tried to stop him for several traffic infractions. He was wanted on six warrants at the time.
According to Pasco police and court records, Paniagua is a documented gang member and a convicted felon who has failed to pay fines and fees on prior criminal cases dating to 2008 when he was a juvenile.
Smith, 36, was on his way to the post office when his car was broadsided on Sylvester at Road 36. He was rushed to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where he died a couple of hours later.
Detective Tony Aceves said the force of the crash forced the passenger door of Smith’s Honda Accord to the center of the car.
Security cameras at a home near the crash site allegedly captured a man resembling Paniagua running from his crashed Chevy pickup.
A loaded Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver was found on the driver’s floorboard of the truck, along with a cellphone with text messages from a sender identified as “Miguel,” documents said.
Paniagua has been in the Franklin County jail on $500,000 bail since a tip led to his April 15 arrest at a friend's Pasco house.
He is charged with vehicular homicide, attempting to elude police, first-degree unlawful possession of a gun and failing to stop and identify at the scene of an injury accident.
His trial is scheduled June 10.