Roberts freed after plea in fatal DUI

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

A Copperopolis man pleaded guilty Monday to negligent driving under the influence of drugs causing injury, in relation to a March 23 crash that killed a Jamestown woman.

He was released from the Calaveras County Jail on his own recognizance awaiting sentencing.

Colton James Roberts, 28, was driving north in his 2003 Acura MDX on Pool Station Road when his car crossed into the southbound lane and collided head-on with Jamestown resident Mark Bottorff's 2002 Kia Optima, according to a California Highway Patrol report.

The collision killed Bottorff's passenger, Corazon Hicks, 71, also of Jamestown.

The plea entered in the Calaveras County Superior Court allowed Roberts to admit to the charge that names Bottorff, 49, as the injured party while acknowledging an enhancement for an additional victim. A charge of vehicular manslaughter was dropped as part of the deal.

An additional enhancement to the charge acknowledged Roberts' conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol in January 2008. Prosecutors and defense attorney Ken Foley, of San Andreas, agreed to a stipulated sentence of one year in jail. Roberts served 186 days in the county jail since his arrest and with an equal amount of days credited for good behavior had exceeded that term by seven days as of Monday.

The plea agreement vacates a multi-day trial that had been scheduled for late November.

Superior Court Judge John Martin agreed to Roberts' release, on the condition that he be subject to random search, testing for drugs, prohibition on driving and use of marijuana. Foley said special arrangements may need to be made with the county Behavioral Health Department with regard to medications prescribed to Roberts for bipolar disorder.

The court set a sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. on Nov. 2. Martin told Roberts that depending on the outcome of a Probation Department sentencing report and other factors, he may face additional jail time. The negligent DUI causing injury charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail.

Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews explained during Monday's hearing that the plea deal had been offered after "testing for marijuana didn't come out quite as we hoped" in the case.

Bottorff attended the hearing and also spoke via phone Monday to The Union Democrat.

He said he was troubled by Roberts walking out of jail nearly six months to the day after his friend died as a result of his actions.

"She was like my best friend … wherever she went, I went," Bottorff said. "She was like a mother to me."

Bottorff recalled performing CPR on Hicks to try and revive her despite having both of his own legs shattered. He still walks with the aid of a cane.

"I spent more time in the hospital than he did in jail," Bottorff said.

He plans to give a statement at the sentencing hearing, he said, even though he thinks it will have little effect.

"Nobody's going to listen to me. I'm just the victim," he said. "But I want to say my two words for (Hicks)."

The Union Democrat
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