Driver maintains plea, faces 30 years to life

The 20-year-old Oceano man accused of crashing his car into a couple from Washington last year while in a distraught state of mind won’t withdraw his no-contest plea to second-degree murder, he told a judge Monday in court.

In response to a question from San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy, Jerardo Iriarte said in court that he won’t be requesting to take back his plea.

A no-contest plea results in a conviction without an admission of guilt.

Iriarte now faces a sentence of 30 years to life in prison for his role in the Pismo Beach crash that killed Bruce and Marjorie Mallin on Oct. 16.

Iriarte was distraught over a breakup with his girlfriend and was trying to hurt himself, according to investigators.Duffy recently appointed San Luis Obispo attorney Jeff Radding to work with Iriarte to determine if he might withdraw the no-contest plea that Iriarte entered in July.

Iriarte is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5. His case is expected to be turned back over to Ron Crawford, the court-appointed attorney who handled his defense before Radding became involved.

A no-contest plea to a murder charge is unusual because often defendants will choose to contest criminal allegations to avoid potentially spending the rest of their lives in prison.

Detectives said Iriarte steered his car off Highway 101 and down an embankment, breaking through a chain-link fence.

The Mallins were walking along Price Street when they were struck. The car came to a stop after hitting a tree, near where Iriarte’s ex-girlfriend was working at Marie Callender’s restaurant.