Diane Anderson was convicted of accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter by a jury of seven women and five men and remanded to the custody of law enforcement on Tuesday morning at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton.
As the first verdict was read, Anderson twisted in her seat, then sat still. Her attorney, Roger Nuttall, put his arm over her shoulder as the other guilty verdicts were announced: failure to perform a duty after an accident, a felony, and concealing or destroying evidence and obstructing a law enforcement investigation, both misdemeanors.
Anderson’s daughter, Heather, wept as she sat behind her mother.
“We know there’s a lot of emotions in this case, from both sides,” said Judge Kevin M. Siebert to the jury before their verdict was announced.
The jury deliberated for more than four hours over Friday and Tuesday.
After the verdict was read, Siebert said, “We called on you to help her get that fair trial, which I believe she did in this county.”
The charges stemmed from an October 2016 triple-fatal vehicle collision on J-59 in La Grange. Anderson was seated in the passenger seat of a white 2015 Acura MDX when the driver, her husband Danny, drove over the double yellow lines going northbound to pass two vehicles.
The pass caused a southbound Lexus RX300 to careen into the northbound lane and hit a Toyota Camry that Danny Anderson passed. The crash killed Trista Hoffman, 16, and her mother, Tina, in the Lexus and Rheinholt Eisemann, a passenger in the Camry.
When the verdict was announced, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office deputy walked behind Diane Anderson and asked that she rise. She then outstretched her arms toward a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy who placed handcuffs on her wrists.
She left the courtroom at the end of the morning session through a locked law enforcement door and blew a kiss to her family.
Siebert changed the trial venue to San Joaquin County because he said publicity of Danny Anderson’s 2018 trial would have made it difficult to seat a jury in Tuolumne County where the collision occurred.
Siebert said Tuesday he intended to follow standard procedure and remand Diane Anderson because she was convicted of a felony.
Diane Anderson faces up to four years and eight months in state prison.
Prior to a lunchtime break, Nuttall appealed to the judge that Diane Anderson be allowed to seek bail pending her sentencing and asked him to rule on the issue today.
“I’m hopeful the court will do the right thing by letting her be out on bail,” he said.
He added that Diane Anderson was not a flight risk and asked Siebert to consider her age and health as a reason to keep her on electronic home monitoring.
“The bottom line, there is no risk to public safety,” Nuttall said.
Siebert said his decision was a “close call,” but he opted to deny Diane Anderson bail because of his concern she may harm herself to avoid prison or chose a “less drastic” route and not appear for sentencing.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg noted that in previous legal discussions with Diane Anderson, she stated she would “rather end her life than do custody time.”
Krieg said the defense would also attempt to extend her time out of custody by filing multiple delay motions to a final judgement.
“Someone who has indicated they feel that way does go to the issue of whether she will appear,” Siebert said, noting he did not believe she was a risk to the public.
Before Diane Anderson was led into custody holding for the final time on Tuesday, she raised her shackled hands toward her friends and families, mouthing silently, “I love you. All of you.”
Sentencing was set for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 7.
Diane Anderson was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail Tuesday afternoon.
Siebert said he did not know when Diane Anderson would be transferred to the Tuolumne County Jail.
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Andrea Benson said a court order will be sent to the San Joaquin County Jail to coordinate the transfer, but the specific date would not be released to the public for the safety of inmates and staff.
Nuttall also said to Siebert that he planned to file a motion for a new trial.
“I’m really shocked. I’m disappointed of course, but I’m actually shocked by what appears to have been the unwillingness or the inability to look at the issues in this case,” Nuttall said after the trial.
Nuttall said the jury did not appear to have taken the time to consider the defense’s alternative theory, that a southbound vehicle passing vehicle caused the collision, and that they may have speculated Danny Anderson was previously convicted of a felony.
Before the jury returned the verdict, counsel and Diane Anderson were called back into the courtroom regarding a jury question for a “deeper explanation” of what defines a defendant as an accessory after the fact, Siebert said.
Siebert told counsel he planned to refer the jury to an instruction that defined the four components necessary for Diane Anderson to be considered an accessory. The primary one was that her husband, Danny Anderson, committed a felony.
Krieg requested the jury be referred to the instruction defining vehicular manslaughter, which Siebrt obliged.
Nuttall said he plans to file with the Fifth District Court of Appeal to seek bail pending sentencing and said the defense would advocate for Diane Anderson being sentenced to probation.
After the judgment was made, Krieg told The Union Democrat, “justice has been served. Absolutely.”
“The conviction of him and her just demonstrates the seriousness of passing over double yellow lines and what driving recklessly can do,” Krieg said.
She said she had not yet determined what the prosecution would recommend for sentencing.
Following the verdict and Diane Anderson’s final remand, many of her friends and family left the courtroom crying.
Family members of the victims said they were pleased and opposed any release for Diane Anderson.
“The court was very fair on her in this trial. Now she needs to suffer the consequences,” said Sherry Case, who is Tina Hoffman’s aunt.
Diane Anderson was accused of knowing Danny Anderson made the pass in a vehicle they owned jointly and concealing their involvement. They sold the Acura six weeks after the collision in Southern California and denied responsibility for the crash.
The defense postulated that George Perez, a salesman who said he saw the aftermath of the crash and made the first recorded 911 call to report it, caused the collision by passing two vehicles in a white truck going southbound.
They said Diane Anderson was asleep due to medication and she did not know she and Danny Anderson were suspects until after they sold the vehicle and were contacted by California Highway Patrol investigators.
Siebert thanked the jury for performing their civic duty and also revealed details of the case which had been previously withheld from them since it began on Aug. 14.
He noted Danny Anderson was convicted of triple vehicular manslaughter last year and incarcerated in state prison, which was why none of the jurors saw him enter or exit the courtroom.
Siebert said the Andersons’ cases were separated and he decided this summer to hold the trial in Stockton because publicity of Danny Anderson’s trial meant it would be difficult to find a suitable jury.
Danny Anderson was sentenced to serve five years and four months in state prison.
The jury began deliberations at about 3 p.m. on Friday and did not convene on Monday. They deliberated until about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday morning before bringing their verdict.
Nuttall also requested that each of the jurors be polled about their response to the accessory charge and all answered unanimously in the affirmative.
The prosecution called 20 witnesses during the 11-day trial, including Danny Anderson who invoked constitutional and spousal privileges to not testify for the prosecution, and rested their case on Aug. 20.
The defense called 11 witnesses and recalled four of the prosecution witnesses. They rested their case on Thursday. Danny Anderson testified for the defense.