A Sonora-area doctor and his wife must stand trial on all of the charges levied against them related to an Oct. 21, 2016, triple-fatality on La Grange Road, Judge Kevin M. Seibert ruled Tuesday.
Acknowledging the intense public scrutiny on the preliminary hearing, Seibert asked the packed courtroom to “keep your emotions in check.”
Despite the warning, mutterings and exasperated sighs swept the courtroom when Seibert proceeded to acknowledge that for both Dr. Danny Anderson, and his wife, Diane, the prosecution had adequately proved their burden of probable cause to take the case to trial.
Seibert explained that his decision was not a judgment against the defendants, but rather his determination that an “ordinary person” may be suspicious that the Andersons could be guilty of the charges.
The Andersons were more animated during the final day of the preliminary hearing, talking and whispering with one another, conferring with their counsel and occasionally rising from their seats behind the guest partition.
At one point, during testimony of CHP investigator Jason Austin, Danny Anderson shook his head in disbelief before leaving his chair, putting both hands on Johnson’s shoulders, and whispering into his left ear.
Austin’s testimony resumed with the introduction of the Mobile Video Audio and Recording System (MVARS) footage taken from CHP Officer Joelle McChesney’s patrol vehicle as she sped southbound along La Grange Road to the accident site.
Johnson played and paused the video on various vehicles leaving the scene of the collision that had occurred just moments earlier.
The silence in the courtroom and the video were marked by the sudden and unexpected introduction of sound following one of Johnson’s rapid clicks on his laptop.
Moments later, McChesney’s vehicle was seen crossing the rumble strips to pass another vehicle, and the courtroom buzzed with the distinctive drone of a vehicle crossing the double-yellow lines.
Johnson pointedly asked Austin what he had done to investigate any of the other vehicles that may have been involved, pointing out a grey van and a white SUV driving in front of Joe Zertuche, who testified last week that he saw the accident happen.
Austin responded that the timing of the Houseboat Mini-Mart video surveillance and witness statements had led to the conclusion that the white Acura MDX traveling behind a white Camry driven by one of the injured victims, Dorothy Eismann, was “most likely” the vehicle responsible for the accident.
“If it’s only most likely, then it’s also somewhat likely another vehicle could have caused it,” Johnson said.
Johnson also presented Austin with a copy of the CHP Traffic Incident Information page, or the Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD), which identified a caller at the time of the accident who was not investigated by the CHP, Austin said.
Asked by Johnson to read through the abbreviated and shorthand statements, Austin related that a woman named Christina Hodge said she was right behind a vehicle that lost control, that another vehicle had been involved in an accident, and that a juvenile pedestrian may have been hit by a vehicle and was lying in the center of the road.
Johnson asked if it was “deliberate” for the CHP to not follow leads of witnesses to accidents.
“I wasn’t aware of this information until right now,” Austin responded.
Krieg later objected to the using the CAD information, calling it “not complete.”
Johnson called the CHP tactics punitive and misleading, indicating that Austin admitted he had lied to Danny Anderson during an interview about the number of witnesses identifying his vehicle.
“My intent was to elicit information from him,” Austin said, later adding that it was a common investigative strategy.
During the final arguments, Seibert asked Johnson to clarify his theory that another white SUV had crossed the double-yellow lines, caused the accident, and was then seen around six car lengths away from Zertuche’s vehicle on McChesney’s MVARS.
Throughout the hearing, Johnson repeatedly referred to Zertuche’s testimony as “all over the block” and classified the prosecution's presentation of evidence as “wholly inadequate.”
Defense lawyer Kirk McAllister also referred to Diane as “a model of cooperation” when seeking to have her charge of concealing evidence dropped.
Seibert also asked for additional reasoning from Krieg on why the evidence suggested Diane Anderson should face an accessory after the fact charge, as well as for information on the case law Krieg cited for many of the charges.
An arraignment on the information was set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in Department 1.
The court also discussed a pending hearing on a motion to rescind Danny Anderson’s ability to practice medicine while out on bail, which was filed by attorney Demond Philson of the California Office of the Attorney General.
Seibert directed Johnson to contact Philson to determine if there would be any opposition to the defense filing a brief on the motion.
A tentative hearing on the motion was set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1.
Danny Anderson faces three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence with enhancement charges of fleeing the scene, one count of hit and run resulting in death or serious injury of six people, one count of reckless driving causing specific injury or death for the three fatalities, and misdemeanors destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing a police investigation.
Diane Anderson faces one count of felony hit and run resulting in death or serious injury of the six involved parties, accessory after the fact to the vehicular manslaughter charge, and misdemeanor charges of destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing an investigation.