Eswin Mejia

Eswin Mejia

Questions are being raised about the immigration status of a teenager who was at the wheel of a car that was involved in a crash in Omaha last month that killed an Iowa woman.

Prosecutors say 19-year-old Eswin Mejia was drunk and street racing on January 31st when he rear-ended an SUV, killing the driver, 21-year-old Sarah Root of Council Bluffs.

Mejia’s lawyer Tom Niklitchek says whether his client is in the country legally isn’t important. “I have not gotten into the details of any immigration status,” Niklitchek says. “Technically, as far as the case is concerned, it’s irrelevant and a jury would never even hear that asked.” He says this is a criminal case and Mejia’s legal status isn’t going to be a factor as he’s charged with motor vehicle homicide.

Niklitchek isn’t sure if Mejia can speak English. “I speak to him in Spanish, largely, I’m fluent in Spanish,” Niklitchek says. “Honestly, I haven’t spoken to him in English. I provide service to my clients in Spanish. It just makes communication a whole lot easier.”

Douglas County prosecutors say Mejia’s blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he was driving on a suspended license when he hit Root’s vehicle. Mejia also had several warrants issued for his arrest for previous traffic violations and failure to appear in court.

“The bigger issue here, if the evidence is such, is alcohol,” Niklitchek says. “I think sometimes we get caught up on issues that perhaps we shouldn’t. In my legal opinion and as a member of the community, the larger issue here is alcohol. Whether he’s legal or not, alcohol doesn’t care.”

Mejia posted 10% of the $50,000 bond and he was released from jail. His next court date is later this month. If convicted, Mejia faces up to 20 years in prison. The victim’s family has expressed concern he will flee the state, if not the country, before going to trial.