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Judge to decide on trial in boardwalk tragedy

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A judge who has heard from multiple victims of a Venice Beach boardwalk auto rampage is set to consider final arguments Wednesday and rule whether a driver will stand trial on allegations he plowed through crowds last summer, killing a newlywed woman and injuring others.

A lawyer for Nathan Campbell is expected to argue to dismiss a murder count in the death of honeymooner Alice Gruppioni, 32, of Bologna, Italy, suggesting there was no intent to kill and her death was accidental.

Some 30 witnesses, including tourists from across the country and the world, flew to Los Angeles to testify at the preliminary hearing. One woman appeared in a wheelchair. Others spoke of their terror when the car came barreling down the boardwalk on an early summer's evening when hundreds of people jammed the popular tourist spot.

Superior Court Judge Antonio Barretto must determine if Campbell should stand trial on one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run.

Witnesses to the Aug. 3 tragedy say the driver maneuvered around barriers and intentionally aimed at tourists and vendors. One man claimed he saw the driver grinning, but Campbell's lawyer countered that the defendant has no teeth and that description could not be true.

Campbell, 38, a transient with a history of petty-crime convictions, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Phillip Dube, has said the event was an accident.

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