The attorney for Danny and Diane Anderson has alleged Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Donald Segerstrom is biased against his clients.
Roger Nuttall, a Fresno-based attorney, has asked for Danny Anderson’s sentence to be recalled and for Segerstrom to be disqualified as Diane Anderson’s trial judge.
“I have a lot of respect for the judge,” Nuttall said in a phone interview on Monday. “We just kind of have a difference of opinion and a different point of view.”
Sonora doctor Danny Anderson was convicted by a jury in July 2018 of three counts of vehicular manslaughter for causing a triple-fatal La Grange collision in 2016. He was sentenced by Segerstrom to five years and four months in state prison in January.
Nuttall’s motion argued the sentencing violated Danny Anderson’s due process rights because it was imposed by a judge who expressed bias in statements made during a Jan. 18 new trial motion and sentencing, as well as during a Jan. 25 re-sentencing court date.
“Dr. Anderson asserts that his conviction and his subsequent conviction are unlawful based upon the trial judge not being impartial,” Nuttal said in a motion filed with the Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Nuttall said Segerstrom visited the accident scene without Danny Anderson or counsel after the trial, but before the sentencing.
During Anderson’s sentencing hearing on Jan. 18, Segerstrom described Anderson’s decision to pass two vehicles over double yellow lines on J-59 just before the accident as "flat out crazy."
Segerstrom said he drove through the area after the trial.
“It's that type of commentary where we could conclude where one could reasonably entertain that the judge was not impartial,” Nuttall said.
Nuttall also said Segerstrom expressed “certain feelings” on a photograph of Trista Hoffman, a 16-year-old driver who died in a head-on vehicle collision after Anderson passed the two vehicles, even though the photo was excluded from evidence.
“The photograph of Trista Hoffman still sticks with me, I can still see it… I can’t get rid of it,” said a statement attributed to Segerstrom in Nuttall’s motion.
Segerstrom excluded the photo from evidence in Danny Anderson’s trial because he said it could be prejudicial to the defendant.
The court has the authority — even without an accusation of bias — to recall and re-sentence Anderson within 120 days after his original sentencing date, Nuttall said in the motion.
Nuttall said if Segerstrom was determined to have not been impartial, it could be grounds to not only recall the sentence, but also to schedule a new trial.
A hearing on the motion will be held on June 17 in Department 1 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m.
A representative from Segerstrom’s office said he could not comment on ongoing cases.
At 2:30 p.m. on June 17, Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kevin M. Seibert will hear a change of venue motion filed by Nuttall on behalf of Diane Anderson. Seibert said he expected a decision to have been made by an out-of-county judge on the disqualification of Segerstrom for her trial by that date.
“Hopefully we’ll have knowledge at that point whether he’s been disqualified or not,” Seibert said. “I don’t think any of these uncertainties affect the trial date.”
Diane Anderson is scheduled for trial on Aug. 14 in Segerstrom’s court.
She is charged with one count of felony hit-and-run resulting in death or serious injury of six involved parties in the accident, an accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter, and misdemeanor charges of destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing an investigation.
She has pleaded not guilty.
Diane Anderson fired her attorney Kirk McAllister, a criminal defense attorney from Modesto, based on irreconcilable differences at her previous hearing.
Seibert said Monday during a motion hearing for Diane Anderson that Judge Barbara L. Roberts was selected by the Judicial Council of California to decide on the disqualification motion.
Roberts is a Superior Court Judge in Butte County.
“I think it’s safe to assume it could take a few weeks for her to make a decision,” Seibert said.
Seibert said Roberts sent a statement to the court that indicated she was requesting additional transcripts before she could make a decision.
In the letter Roberts indicated that a change of venue motion related to Segerstrom’s impartiality would be denied.
“There’s nothing unique about this situation that shows the presiding judge has any influence, undue or otherside, over other judicial officers in the county,” Roberts said.
Seibert said he interpreted the statement to be “narrow” and only in regards to the disqualification, that if Roberts did decide to disqualify Segerstrom then the trial could still be held in Tuolumne County.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg said after the hearing she could not speculate on the meaning of the letter.
Roberts could not be reached for comment.
Diane Anderson trial has been postponed four times from Dec. 5, Feb. 6, April 10 and May 8.
Nuttall said he has also filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to review an April 19 decision by the California Fifth Appellate District to deny Anderson’s release from prison pending the conclusion of his appeal.
Danny Anderson is incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He was transferred to the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at the Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy on Jan. 29.
Diane and Danny Anderson were arrested in April 2017 when they voluntarily surrendered on warrants to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
Diane Anderson was seated in the passenger seat of a white Acura MDX when her husband crossed over the double yellow lines on northbound J-59 in La Grange in Oct. 2016 and caused a head on vehicle collision between a southbound 2002 Lexus RX300 and a northbound 2009 Toyota Camry.
The collision resulted in the death of Tina Hoffman, 51, and her daughter, Trista Hoffman, 16, in the Lexus, and Reinholt Eismann, 72, in the Camry. Lexus passengers Dillon Hoffman, 17, sustained two broken legs, and Annie Johnson, 16, sustained brain hemorrhages. Camry driver Dorothy Eismann, 66, sustained minor injuries.