The trial of a Sonora-area doctor accused of causing an accident that killed three people and injured three others on La Grange Road in October 2016 was delayed until June 20 at a hearing in Tuolumne County Superior Court on Friday.
Dr. Danny Anderson and his wife, Diane, who is accused as an accessory, sat at the counsel’s table next to their attorneys during Friday’s hearing. Several of their supporters sat in the rows of seats behind them.
A separate hearing is scheduled to take place March 19, nine days before the original trial date, over the defense’s request for California Highway Patrol records pertaining to the 2008 arrest of an officer who investigated the fatal accident.
Presiding Judge Donald Segerstrom said the court found good cause to delay the trial because there was “no way to know” what new information could come to light at the March 19 hearing.
Tom Johnson, attorney for Dr. Danny Anderson, said the CHP has withheld personnel records on Officer Joelle McChesney from both himself and Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg.
McChesney works for the Sonora-area CHP office in Jamestown and was the first to arrive at the scene of the fatal accident that occured Oct. 21, 2016. She was stationed at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento at the time of her arrest in May 2008 in Yolo County.
Documents attached to the motion stated she pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor accessing a computer to alter, destroy or use data for a criminal purpose, and was sentenced to 120 days of community service and three years of probation.
McChesney was later employed by the Woodland-area CHP office following the conviction, prior to being hired by the Sonora-area CHP office.
Johnson said they became aware of McChesney’s past arrest and conviction in late January and filed a subpoena for CHP personnel records.
Krieg said she called the local CHP office and was told they needed to speak to their legal department in Sacramento before releasing the records to her, but she was able to obtain all reports related to McChesney’s conviction from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.
Krieg argued against delaying the trial because McChesney’s conviction was 10 years old, she wasn’t convicted of a felony, and there were multiple other witnesses to the 2016 fatal accident and CHP officers who were at the scene.
Johnson countered that the report completed by the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team was based on a 30-page “area report” written by McChesney.
“To say that her (McChesney’s) testimony isn’t important, I don’t think that’s going to happen at trial,” Johnson said. “I think her testimony will be important.”
Segerstrom said the defendants have waived their right to a speedy trial, but the people and victims also have a right to a speedy trial. However, he added that equally important is the defendant’s right to a fair trial and due process.
Regardless of the CHP’s policy on personnel records, Segerstrom said the agency has an obligation to provide exculpatory or impeaching information about a witness known as a “Brady disclosure.”
About 4:20 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2016, Trista Hoffman, 16, was driving a 2002 Lexus SUV southbound on La Grange Road and swerved to avoid a head-on collision with a white 2014-2016 Acura MDX crossover SUV that had crossed the double yellow lines to pass Dorothy Eisemann, 66, who was driving northbound in a 2009 Toyota Camry.
The 2009 Toyota swerved on to the west dirt shoulder of La Grange Road before turning back into the roadway, overturning and colliding with the 2002 Lexus.
Hoffman, her mother and passenger Tina Hoffman, 51, and Rheinholt Eisemann, 72, Dorothy Eisemann’s husband and passenger, were all pronounced dead at the scene.
Dillon Hoffman, 17, Annie Johnson, 16, and Dorothy Eisemann all sustained major injuries.
In early November 2016, a be-on-the-lookout was issued for the white Acura seen in surveillance footage from businesses and residences in the area as the vehicle suspected of causing the fatal collision.
The CHP put out a news release in February 2017 identifying the suspected driver of the Acura as Danny Anderson, and requested that the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office file charges against him.
Danny Anderson was charged on suspicion of 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.
They have both pleaded not guilty to all charges. The trial is expected to last at least 12 days.
The next court date in the case is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 19 in Department 1.
Contact Alex MacLean at email@example.com or (209) 588-4530.
This story has been edited to correct the severity of the injuries sustained by the survivors.