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Lawyers dispute that teens in Bayshore crash were racing, want evidence tossed

Attorneys for Cameron Herrin and John Barrineau say a search warrant application that police wrote after the 2018 fatal crash omitted key details and was insufficient to allow the seizure of data from a Ford Mustang’s on-board computer.
A vehicle passes a roadside memorial for Jessica Raubenolt, 24, and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, in 2018 in Tampa. [TIMES | (2018)]
A vehicle passes a roadside memorial for Jessica Raubenolt, 24, and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, in 2018 in Tampa. [TIMES | (2018)]
Published Nov. 10, 2020
Updated Nov. 10, 2020

TAMPA — Attorneys for two young men accused of causing a 2018 crash that killed a mother and her baby daughter on Bayshore Boulevard have asked a judge to throw out key evidence in the case.

In a lengthy court motion and in a two-hour hearing Tuesday morning, attorneys for Cameron Herrin and John Barrineau argued that data stored on a Ford Mustang’s navigation and entertainment system was not lawfully obtained.

They also disputed the notion that the Mustang and a Nissan Altima were racing or driving recklessly before the crash. Witnesses who saw the cars before the collision could not establish the exact speed, distance, or activity of the cars, according to the defense motion. And a detective opined that the crash occurred at a low speed.

“There was basically no video or scientific or forensic evidence relating to reckless driving or racing,” attorney John Fitzgibbons said in court. “There also was no evidence that the drivers of the two vehicles were communicating in any manner, which is often a precursor to any race.”

Herrin, 21, and Barrineau, 20, are each charged with vehicular homicide in the May 23, 2018, deaths of Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia. The mother, who was from Ohio and visiting family in Tampa, was pushing her daughter in a stroller across the iconic boulevard that afternoon when they were struck by the Mustang.

Assistant State Attorney Aaron Hubbard said much of what the defense argued was best suited to be heard in a trial. He accused the attorneys of “nitpicking” the wording of the search warrant affidavit and the warrant itself. Many of the things the defense says police should have done in their investigation were unrealistic, Hubbard said.

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The prosecutor also disputed that there is no evidence the cars were racing. He noted witnesses who described speeding, loud engines and the cars changing lanes in a manner that he said could be characterized as reckless driving.

Data from the Mustang’s Infotainment system, which police have said showed the car reached 102 mph moments before the collision, was not mentioned in the search warrant affidavit, the defense said. But the warrant itself included a paragraph about the car’s system, something the police had not asked to search. This, the defense said, was a “fatal flaw," requiring that the data be suppressed.

If a judge grants the defense’s request, it would likely make it difficult for the state to prove its case.

Although some people who saw the crash opined that the cars were racing, Tampa Police Detective Ryan Jacques immediately determined the crash was a “low velocity collision” at a speed ranging between 30 and 35 mph, according to the defense motion. There were no skid marks or other evidence on the road to suggest that the cars had decelerated before the crash, the defense said, and police did not document any evidence that the cars had braked hard before impact. These things were not mentioned in the search warrant affidavit.

Fitzgibbons and defense attorney Anthony Rickman also noted that none of the witnesses who called 911 mentioned that the cars were racing or otherwise driving recklessly. The detective admitted in a deposition that a lay person’s definition of a race is not the same as the legal definition and that regular driving may sometimes be characterized as racing.

Related: Bayshore crash trial reset for January amid pandemic delays

The detective’s affidavit sought permission to remove an airbag control module and items related to the mechanical operation of the car. But it did not specifically mention the car’s Infotainment system. Although the system was mentioned in the warrant itself, the police had no authorization to access the data, the defense said.

“We believe the affidavit was so defective, it lacked sufficient probable cause,” Fitzgibbons said. “That alone causes the warrant to fail.”

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash said he would issue a written ruling sometime in the next two weeks. A trial is set for January.