By SCOTT PESZNECKER
A Calaveras County Superior Court judge said yesterday he cannot preside over the preliminary hearing for the chief of the San Andreas Fire Protection District, who is charged with raping and molesting a woman several years ago.
Judge Douglas Mewhinney said he is friends with the defendant, Erie Donald Young Sr., and that it would be wrong for him to make decisions about the case.
Mewhinney said he performed Young's daughter's marriage ceremony.
After talking to the prosecution and defense attorneys for several minutes about the defense's motion to dismiss the case, Mewhinney suddenly said someone else would have to take over.
He told court reporters to disregard everything he said about the case during the hearing, and said he wanted another judge to handle the decision on dismissing the case.
The preliminary hearing for Young is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. A visiting judge will hear the case.
Young is still acting fire chief of the San Andreas Fire Protection District. His attorney, Brian Chavez-Ochoa, has called the charges "egregious fabrications."
Before Mewhinney removed himself yesterday, he talked to both attorneys about the statute of limitations in this case.
Because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the statute earlier this year, the charges against Young could be dropped.
The charges against Young surfaced Aug. 29, 2002, when a San Joaquin County woman found a bomb in her mailbox. During the investigation, authorities asked the woman if she knew anyone who may want to harm her, and she told them of her relationship with Young. She said she'd been molested by Young between the ages of 7 and 18, and raped after she turned 13.
The woman is now 32.
The Calaveras County District Attorney's Office can only charge Young with two instances that allegedly happened in Calaveras County, and then only if they are found to have happened after 1988.