GOLETA, Calif. - The brother and friends of Mallory Dies confronted Congresswoman Lois Capps as she arrived to speak at a community forum on the Women's Economic Agenda in Goleta.
But, they didn't want to talk to Capps about women's issues. Wearing yellow "Vow4Mal" t-shirts, Dies' friend Travis Vassallo, pressed Capps about a series of reports published in the Santa Barbara News-Press claiming that she and her staffers used their political power to protect Capps after her former top aide was arrested in the hit and run death of the 27-year-old UCSB graduate.
One of the allegations in the articles claims that a Capps staff member forged Morua's signature on VA paperwork to get him out of jail and into a treatment center after he plowed into Dies while driving drunk following a holiday party in December. Vassallo said, "Congresswoman Capps, I feel you have a responsibility. I'm a constituent of the town, and I would like some answers. You're a public servant." Capps responded that Dies' death was a tragedy. She said,""Because its a matter now in the courts, I'm really not able to comment further."
The parents of Dies have filed a civil lawsuit against Capps, Morua and the U.S. Government to help pay for their daughters extensive medical expenses and fund the "Vow4Mal" foundation set up in her honor. The lawsuit alleges that Capps and her office never properly vetted Morua, who had two previous DUI's on his record, during the hiring process. They also claim Morua was working for Capps in an official capacity on the night he killed Dies. Capps has repeatedly denied both allegations.
Vassallo also asked Capps why she had not yet reached out to the Dies family or accepted any of their invitations to attend "Vow4Mal" anti-drinking and driving events. Vassallo said,"Are you going to continue to deny coming to our events that we've repeatedly invited you to?" Capps responded "My schedule is set by my office. I'm not excusing that for not showing up. But, I work in Washington, DC as well. We can be in touch. We're happy to be in touch with you about scheduling an event."
With a "Vow4Mal" pin in hand, Vassallo also said, "I'd actually like to ask you, would you take a vow to never drink and drive and support Mallory?" Capps accepted the pin and put it on. She said, "I'm happy to take this."
While, Dies brother and friends were receptive to those efforts, they say they still want answers. Dies' brother, Matthew said, "I just want to know the truth. I think if those allegations are true, Lois Capps should own up to it and take responsibility for it."
The "Vow4Mal" foundation has started circulating a petition both online and at public events. The petition asks Capps to respond to the allegations made in the reports. The petition is also calling for the Santa Barbara County District Attorney to assign an outside federal prosecutor to investigate the claims against Capps. So far, Vassallo says they have about 700 signatures.
Morua, an Iraq war veteran, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, DUI and fleeing the scene of a crime. He also acknowledged his past drunk-driving convictions. Morua is in jail awaiting sentencing on May 28th and could face up to 20 years in prison.
To view the petition click here