Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

A 77-year-old man pleaded not guilty Friday to stealing a motorized shopping cart from a Sonora grocery store in February.

John Charles Mathews was arraigned on a felony auto theft charge in Tuolumne County Superior Court.

His arraignment was initially scheduled for March 13 but Mathews failed to appear because he was in custody at Calaveras County Jail on warrants for driving under the influence and failure to appear.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office arrested Mathews on March 11 at a Copperopolis grocery store after receiving a report of an intoxicated man riding an electric cart.

He was released from Calaveras County Jail on March 17 due to overcrowding, and picked up by Sonora police at the Crossroads Shopping Center three days later.

He was booked into Tuolumne County Jail on warrants for failing to appear for his arraignment, auto theft and driving with a suspended license.

He remained in custody Wednesday morning on $20,000 bail.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 12 in Department 4.

The District Attorney's Office charged Mathews with felony auto theft after a Sonora police officer arrested him on suspicion of stolen property on Feb. 27.

About 1 a.m., the officer saw Mathews driving a Safeway cart west on 800 block ofMono Way, about 500 feet from the Sanguinetti Road store, and contacted him.

Mathews was apparently trying to drive the cart to his home on the 11400 block of Forest Park Drive, about six miles away, police said.

Mathews told the officer that Safeway had given him the cart - valued at $1,000 - because he has trouble walking, police said.

The officer contacted a Safeway representative who said the store had not given Mathews the cart and did not realize it had been taken, police said.

The cart has since been returned to the store, according to police.