Dr. Danny Anderson was found guilty Wednesday of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, reckless driving and hit and run after a jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about six hours over two days.
He was acquitted on the special allegations of fleeing the scene of an accident, which were attached to the manslaughter charges. Anderson was also found guilty of the misdemeanor charge obstructing a police investigation, but was acquitted on the the misdemeanor charge of concealing evidence.
Anderson was released until sentencing on Sept. 7 and ordered to be on electronic monitoring until then.
Danny Anderson faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and four months in prison.
After the verdict was announced, Anderson hugged his wife, Diane Anderson, his son, and then his daughter, who wept openly.
Carolyn Case, whose daughter and granddaughter were killed in the collision, said, “When I heard the verdict, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I thought thank God. God prevailed. I knew it.”
The accident occurred on October 21, 2016 when Danny Anderson, driving a white 2015 Acura MDX northbound on J-59, crossed the double yellow lines to pass a 2009 Toyota Camry driven northbound by Dorothy Eisemann, 68, and an unidentified gray van. A 2002 Lexus RX300 driven southbound by Trista Hoffman, 16, swerved to avoid a head-on impact with Danny Anderson’s Acura MDX, and crashed head-on with the 2009 Camry. Trista Hoffman and her mother, Tina Hoffman, 51, the front passenger in the Lexus, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Tina Hoffman was ejected when the front passenger side door was torn off as the vehicle rolled across the northbound lane. Passengers in the back seat of the Lexus were Dillon Hoffman, 17, who sustained two broken legs, and Annie Johnson, 16, who sustained brain hemorrhages. Reinholt John Eisemann, 72, a passenger in the Camry, died after the collision.
Anderson was charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence with the special allegations of fleeing the scene, one felony count of hit-and-run resulting in death or serious injury of six people, one felony count of reckless driving causing specific injury or death for the three injured parties, and misdemeanors destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing a police investigation following his arrest in April 2017.
Before the reading of the verdict, and as the jury left the deliberation room, the courtroom was silent. Anderson stood to face the jury and bit his lower lip as jurors took their seats.
Most of the seats in the courtroom were occupied. Behind Anderson, about 20 of his family and friends, many of whom attended much of the trial since testimony began on July 6, stood for the jury.
In the public section behind Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg, multiple members of her office sat near Carolyn Case, mother to Tina Hoffman and grandmother to Trista and Dillon Hoffman.
One plain clothed and five uniformed Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputies surrounded the public perimeter of the courtroom as Judge Donald Segerstrom warned the crowd against any outbursts.
The courtroom remained silent. As the verdict was read, some of the people behind Anderson shook their heads from side to side or held fingers to their lips. As the jury left the courtroom, half of the people behind Anderson did not stand and glared toward the door.
When the brief hearing was over, Case, 75, of La Grange, was one of the first people out the door. She blotted tears from her eyes and leaned against the ornate stairway railing along the third floor of the Tuolumne County Superior Court. Tina Hoffman was her last living child after her son died of cancer in 1988.
When Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg left the courtroom, they embraced.
“When I heard the verdict, a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Case said. “I thought thank God. God prevailed. I knew it.”
The verdict was an opportunity for closure, Case said, but the trial was a daily reminder of the moment she heard her daughter and granddaughter were dead.
Case was at the Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Kern County when she received a call from Trista and Dillon’s father, she said.
“He said, ‘are you sitting down? I want you to sit down.’ He said Tina and Trisa had died. I threw my phone,” she said. “I couldn’t really tell you what I did from that point on. I just remember running barefoot to my car because I was going to see Dillon.”
Case drove with Roni Fenton, a Hoffman family friend who was present at the sentencing on Wednesday, over four hours to a Modesto hospital to see Dillon Hoffman.
Dillon Hoffman, the first witness called to testify on July 6, said a “white sporty looking vehicle” raced toward his sister in the wrong lane on the day of the accident. He braced for an impact before the head-on collision and the Lexus careened across the northbound lane and off an embankment.
It was the only time Dillon Hoffman was present at the court over the course of the trial.
“He said he wanted to come but he said, ‘grandma, do you mind if I stay home, I can’t stomach looking at that guy,” Case said. “From the get-go he said, ‘he’s going to jail.’”
Case said Dillon’s father declined to comment on whether he would be pursuing a civil suit against Anderson.
Over the course of Danny Anderson’s criminal trial, the prosecution called nine CHP officers, one CHP dispatch employee, three survivors, two paramedics, a coroner, a toxicologist, and five witnesses to the crash or its aftermath. The defense called one woman, an on-scene witness to the crash aftermath who called 911 to report a pedestrian may have been hit by a vehicle on J-59.
Case sat with Krieg, Fenton, Darlene Nichols, (Tina’s aunt and Trista and Dillon’s great-aunt) and many others at a shaded wooden table beside the courthouse after the verdict to reminiscence about the over-year long legal process.
“We cried together. We prayed together. We realized that we were just very thankful that this day had come and that he was held accountable for what he did,” Krieg said.
Krieg said she respected the jury’s verdict in the case despite Anderson being acquitted of fleeing the scene.
“I’m very happy. I want to thank the jury for their careful attention in this case. This was a lengthy trial but we always believed that justice would be served and today justice was served,” she said.
Anderson’s lawyer Tom Johnson said, “the result is the result,” and commended Segerstrom for being “unfailingly fair” and the jurors for their “thoughtful and attentive” scrutiny of the case.
"The fact is we could not prove that any other car passed. We certainly respect what the jury did, even if we are disappointed," Johnson said.
Anderson did not comment as he left the courthouse.
Anderson's sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 in Department 1 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Krieg said victims will make statements during the sentencing hearing.
Case said she was still processing the verdict, but she hoped that it could finally allow her to forgive Anderson.
“I tried, but with all their lies it makes it harder,” Case said. “Now that I know it’s over it might make it a little easier.”
Case said she would advocate for the maximum sentence, “but there’s really a no-win situation. It’s not going to bring my family or my daughter back.”
Segerstrom will determine the sentence at the hearing.
“At the end of the day he's responsible for the deaths for three people. I feel that his actions in this case showed deceit, dishonesty and left the victims’ families reeling for answers,” Krieg said.
Anderson’s wife, Diane Anderson, has a trial setting conference set for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 13 in Department 1. Diane Anderson was charged with 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.
She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In April 2018, Segerstrom ordered separate trials for the couple due to the admission of a Dec. 6, 2016 audio recording in Danny Anderson’s trial where he admitted to crossing the double yellow lines on the day of the accident.
The statement did not mention Diane Anderson and would have infringed on her right to a fair trial, Segerstrom said at the time.