The parents of a young Santa Barbara woman killed in a high profile, DUI case are suing Congresswoman Lois Capps, her former aide Raymond Morua, and the U-S government in federal court.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by attorney Robert Stoll who is representing Matt and Raeona Dies on behalf of their daughter Mallory Dies. Dies was struck and killed by Morua in downtown Santa Barbara in December. Stoll said, "Mr. and Mrs. Dies are people that don't even believe in suing. They've never sued anybody before. They didn't want to sue Representative Capps. They simply wanted to get some of their enormous expenses paid."
Dies was on life support for several days after she was hit by Morua on December 6. Stoll said, "The hospital and medical bills are hundreds of thousands of dollars. So there is a double tragedy here. They've lost their daughter and they've lost their financial security, their financial future."
One of the claims in the wrongful death lawsuit is that Capps was aware of Morua's two DUI convictions, yet hired him anyways for a position that required driving and then failed to monitor him. Court records show he has two prior DUI arrests, a hit and run, and an embezzlement conviction.
The Dies family also contends that Morua was on the job and working in an official capacity for Capps the night he killed Dies while driving drunk following a holiday party. "Mr. Morua has said under oath, under penalty of perjury, that he was on the job," said Stoll. "So, if Mr. Morua was, as the evidence seems to indicate, in the course and scope of his employment at the time and place of the accident, then Lois Capps is responsible," he said.
Stoll tells NewsChannel 3 that the Dies family also has some serious questions about several allegations against Capps and her staffers that recently surfaced, including forgery and a cover-up. The allegations were made public in a five-part series in the Santa Barbara News-Press by journalist Peter Lance.
Stoll said, "While Mallory was still alive, there was a move underfoot by Lois Capps' office to get Morua out of jail and get him out of town. They did it by forging Mr. Morua's name on what are known as medical authorizations. But, then they got word that she was going to be taken off life support. We don't know how Capps' office found out such sensitive family information. They moved very quickly at that point and cancelled all plans to get him out of town and then began to distance themselves from Mr. Morua. That's what this case is going to be searching for in the way of proof."
When asked about those claims Capps said, "I have no comment, no knowledge. No comment. " Capps also said, "This is a tragedy. All the way around and every sense of the word and my heart breaks. My heart goes out to the family of the victim. I lost a daughter way before her time and it's a heartache. This is all now a legal matter and I really can't comment any further." Capps has also maintained that Morua was not working for her the night of the of the crash. Shortly after the December incident, Capps said she was tightening her hiring procedures and implementing stronger requirements.
Dies close friend Ryan Todey says that isn't enough. He and the Dies family want answers from Capps. He said, "She is a public servant. I think she forgets that. As a taxpayer, I just want her to comment. I think she owes that to the people. She has to stop side-stepping." Todey also says if they case goes to trial, the Dies family will prevail. "We have the truth on our side. It's really easy when you are on that side. It's really clear to us what happened. We experienced it. We went through it."
Morua has pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of the crime. He's scheduled to be sentenced on May 28 and could spend up to 20 years in prison.