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November 28, 2014

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Judge: ‘We don’t charge people with murder for accidents’

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Leila Navidi

Sounilak Ouchlaeun, center, appears in court with interpreter Thirawat Apichonrattanakorn, left, and public defender Christy Craig, right, at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

Updated Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 | 3:36 p.m.

Sounilak Ouchlaeun in Court

Sounilak Ouchlaeun appears in court at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday, November 27, 2012. Ouchlaeun is charged with murder with a deadly weapon for running over her boyfriend with a car. Launch slideshow »

A judge tossed all charges, including murder, against a Laotian woman accused of running over her boyfriend with her car last year after a tequila-fueled fight.

Sounilak Ouchlaeun, 34, was facing murder and felony driving under the influence charges for backing over Conrado Mendoza with her 2010 Toyota Venza on Nov. 19, 2012, in the driveway of the couple’s Spring Valley home.

Las Vegas Township Judge Eric Goodman ruled both charges unfounded at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing Friday.

“We don’t charge people with murder for accidents,” Goodman remarked, barring prosecutors from again bringing murder charges against Ouchlaeun in this case.

The carnage ensued when, at a house party, Mendoza became jealous of one of Ouchlaeun’s Rio co-workers, according to witness testimony.

Mendoza became outraged, hit Ouchlaeun and punched a wall, Mendoza’s friend Valan Bengson testified. After the fight, Ouchlaeun got into her car with her two dogs. Mendoza told his friend to stop Ouchlaeun from leaving.

Goodman questioned if the two men’s attempt to keep Ouchlaeun there was coercion, a felony, noting that it sounded like Mendoza had the opportunity to get out of Ouchlaeun’s way.

“She was afraid, she was scared, she had been hit,” Goodman said when assessing prosecutors’ claims the death was premeditated.

The couple’s neighbor, Theresa Hagan, crying during her testimony, said that after the incident Ouchlaeun crawled under the car, screaming through tears “No, No! He’s my family.”

While Ouchlaeun may have been drunk when she drove over her boyfriend in the small driveway, the judge ruled in favor of public defender Christy Craig’s argument. Craig asserted the prosecution didn’t have grounds to charge Ouchlaeun with DUI because she didn’t make it on to the public street.

Prosecutors contended, to no avail, that a limitation on location only applied to lesser DUI charges, where death was not involved.

Mendoza’s sister sat through part of the hearing, wiping away tears as witnesses described her brother’s body.

Ouchlaeun had a small group of supporters present, and her attorney said she had many friends and family that have been seeing her through the court proceedings.

Ouchlaeun was fired at the Rio immediately after the event but has now found work as a card dealer downtown and is looking forward to getting back on track to become a U.S. citizen, Craig said.

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