Dr. Danny Anderson was sent to jail on Friday afternoon, but his sentencing was postponed due to his new lawyer requesting time to review court transcripts and potentially file a motion for a new trial.
Attorney Mark Coleman of Fresno was hired by Anderson in August. Anderson was found guilty by a jury on July 25 of three counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, reckless driving, hit and run, and the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police investigation.
On Oct. 21, 2016, Anderson was driving a white Acura MDX northbound on J-59, north of Bonds Flat Road, when he crossed over the double-yellow lines into the southbound lane. The illegal maneuver caused a head-on collision between a 2002 Lexus RX300 driving southbound on J-59, and a northbound 2009 Toyota Camry that Anderson passed.
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.
Anderson was acquitted of fleeing the scene and of a misdemeanor charge of concealing evidence.
In his first appearance before Judge Donald Segerstrom, Coleman said he expected his client to remain free on electronic monitoring until the time of his new sentencing hearing.
Segerstrom disagreed. Anderson was facing a “substantial portion of the remainder of his life in prison” and because he was found to have committed an “impulsive, reckless act” that led to the death of three people, the probability of “another impulsive and reckless act has dramatically increased,” Segerstrom said.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg said the Probation Department recommended the maximum sentence of 10 years and four months in state prison.
During the argument about whether he would be jailed, Anderson sat with his hands folded in his lap, occasionally pursed his lips or whispered to his attorney.
Segerstrom repeatedly maintained that it was up to the “discretionary decision of the court” to decide if Danny Anderson was remanded and that staying free on bail was not an entitled right.
When it became clear that Segerstrom was unwilling to change his mind, Coleman appealed that he be given just one more day to report to jail so he could notify his patients and medical practice.
“Today was sentencing. He should have been prepared to go to custody today,” Segerstrom said.
Three uniformed Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputies came up behind Anderson, who was seated beside Coleman. He rose to his feet and looked over his left shoulder as the handcuffs clicked into place, and then he was immediately escorted out of the Tuolumne County Superior Court to a Sheriff’s Office transport vehicle.
Most of the people in the packed courtroom stared at Anderson as he was led out the door.
The courtroom attendance, like much of the trial and the hearings that preceded it, was divided by support or condemnation of Anderson. His friends and family, including his wife Diane, packed the rows of seats just behind the defense.
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. Her trial is set to begin Dec. 5.
Behind Krieg and the prosecution sat the victims’ family members, members of the public and at least one juror who deliberated the case. None of the witnesses who testified in the trial, which included the three injured individuals, attended the hearing.
Much of the argument at the hearing was focused on how the probation department recommendation may have led to Anderson’s decision to seek new representation.
Segerstrom took umbrage with a statement attributed to Anderson in the probation report where Segerstrom said Danny Anderson accepted the jury’s verdict.
On Aug. 13 the probation report was submitted to court, but on Aug. 28 the motion for a continuance based on the representation of new counsel was submitted, Segerstrom said.
“It appears to the court that he really changed his mind,” he said, referencing the intention for Coleman to potentially pursue a new trial.
Tuolumne County Chief Probation Officer Linda Downey said California Penal Code Section 1203.05 indicated that the probation report was not available as a public document until 60 days after Danny Anderson was sentenced.
Segerstrom is not bound to adhere to the probation department’s recommendation for a 10 year and four month sentence in state prison. An amended probation report referenced in the hearing by Segerstrom fixed typographical and clerical errors, Krieg said, but did not change the sentencing recommendation.
Coleman said the initial consultations with his firm were made before the probation report was submitted, but he did not meet Anderson in person until Aug.14.
“Dr. Anderson has driven from Sonora to Fresno to meet with me and my partner on at least three occasions,” he said. “He is not, I believe, a flight risk. He knew what the seriousness of his charges were. He sat through the trial.”
Krieg did not oppose the continuance motion but suggested the caveat that Danny Anderson be remanded until that date.
“I don’t think we have any faith he would appear,” she said.
After the hearing, Krieg said she recognized Danny Anderson’s “constitutional right to counsel of his choice,” and that the Supreme Court of California had previously ruled that the state should “refrain from unreasonable interference in that right.”
“The right to continue needs to be balanced with the victim’s rights to the finality of the case as well. The court must weigh the likelihood that the defendant will appear for sentencing as well as balancing if he presents a risk to the public,” she said.
Coleman declined to comment after the hearing on the grounds that he needed to learn more about the facts of the case first. During the hearing he said the continuance was requested because his office did not expect to receive trial transcripts until the beginning of October. The office would look for grounds for a new trial and would submit all pertinent motions before the next hearing, he said.
Danny Anderson’s trial lawyer, Tom Johnson of Sacramento, was present in the court when the representation was transferred to Coleman, but then left immediately.
Segerstrom said he expected “a number of victim impact statements” in the case, and Krieg responded that the victims preferred to make statements at the time of sentencing rather than on Friday.
Dillon and Trista Hoffman’s father and stepmother, who live in Lake County, were expected to travel to Tuolumne County to make statements at the sentencing, Krieg said.
Danny Anderson’s sentencing hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 30 in Department 1 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court.