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Driver in fatal Irvine crash pleads not guilty

June 01, 2011

SANTA ANA – A convicted drunk driver pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday in the death of an Irvine cheerleader killed over Memorial Day weekend as she rode home from a party with friends.

Austin Jeffrey Farley, 26, entered his plea from the prison courtroom in the Orange County Jail. Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, Farley stood erect as the judge read charges accusing him of murder, driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury. Two defense attorneys flanked the defendant, who has a shaved head and soul patch, outside of his holding cage.

Farley is accused in the death of Ashton Sweet, 14, who prosecutors assert died after his pickup truck T-boned a Mercedes the Northwood High School freshman was riding in after a friend's party at 1 a.m. Sunday. Prosecutors allege that Farley was driving at twice the legal limit for alcohol.

The Mercedes was driven by a father of one of Sweet's friends, Michael Ghaemi.

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Ghaemi told The Times that Farley turned against a red light in his Toyota pickup near Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard, hitting the left side of the Mercedes. The Mercedes then hit a nearby light standard. Three other girls in the car suffered injuries.

Lauren Williams

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