By Danae Snell
SACRAMENTO – If the headline above is confusing, then prepare, because this is only the beginning of a wild ride.
Defendant James Dearborn this week was facing three charges here in a Sacramento County Superior Court preliminary hearing after accelerating at a speed of more than 100 mph to follow his brand-new SUV vehicle that he allowed his friend to drive.
Defendant Dearborn—who was to lose his preliminary hearing although the judge had big doubts—was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was also driving without a driver’s license.
Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jack summoned responding officers Terry Baggett and Brandon Herron from the Citrus Heights Police Department to explain the series of events that unfolded and resulted in these charges.
After receiving multiple 911 calls regarding a two-car collision, Officer Baggett responded to the scene to find “one vehicle (an Infinity model) pushed into another vehicle (an SUV) with four occupants or four people outside the vehicle.”
The occupants inside the Infinity vehicle were defendant Dearborn and his brother.
The defendant informed that “[h]e just purchased the vehicle (the SUV) on Friday night and then the victim (the driver of his SUV) and he were going to the auto part store to purchase some parts for some repairs.”
According to Officer Baggett, after leaving the store the two individuals departed in separate vehicles and were supposed to follow each other to the next location. The defendant told the officer he was driving the Infinity while his friend drove the new SUV. However, instead of following him “she did not stay behind him and made a different turn.”
At this time, he did not file a police report on this incident because “he had hopes she would return, but she didn’t.” As time passed the defendant was unable to get into contact with this friend except for a text he received stating, “If there is another person in the vehicle (the Infinity) war is on.”
Instead of filing a report, the defendant took action into his own hands by supposedly “driving around with his brother in the Infinity looking for the SUV” two days later.
As they were driving around, the SUV was spotted driving down a road so the defendant immediately “attempted to get her to pull over the vehicle.”
Instead of pulling over, a high-speed chase broke out and the officer informed the court, “They entered onto Interstate 80 and she attempted to get away from him at a high rate of speed and he pursued after her.” going more than 100 mph. Then, said the officer, the defendant “told me that he attempted to do a pit maneuver to make her stop.”
According to the officer, “A pit maneuver is when, taught properly, it makes a vehicle spin out when hit in the rear.” However, the maneuver caused this: “The vehicle came to a stop and at this point his brother got out of the car. Then she put her vehicle (the SUV) in reverse, made a U-turn, and tried to get away.”
However, according to Officer Herron—who interviewed the defendant’s brother—the brother requested to get out of the vehicle before the pit maneuver was utilized. Instead, the brother claimed he stood witness to the pit maneuver from the sidewalk.
As the SUV continued to flee, the defendant “began to pursue her again and began ramming into her in order to get her to stop.” After pushing the SUV with his Infinity, the high-speed chase concluded and officers were called to respond to a collision.
Officer Baggett stated that he believes the defendant’s behavior was reckless insofar as “driving at speeds of 100 plus is very dangerous because they both could have created an accident running into any other vehicle on the road, and also the use of the pit maneuver, adding, “We are not even able to do a pit maneuver without permission of our sergeant and only once after we are trained to do so.”
Assistant Public Defender Joshua Kurtz said, “Regardless. I don’t believe the evidence shows that Mr. Dearborn actually rammed the SUV in any way, but I understand this is the way the evidence has come out in this hearing. It’s not as clear as I would like it to be to convince your honor of what actually happened.”
DDA Jack said, “For purposes of the holding order I think there is sufficient evidence that this was an assault with a deadly weapon and one that is likely to produce great bodily injury” because of the defendant’s admission of using a pit maneuver and the fact that he also pushed the vehicle with his vehicle to get it to stop.
“It would be my position that this is a felony given the facts of the case as they are. The defendant chased the victim prior to this collision and admitted that they reached speeds to approximately 100 mph,” the DDA added, noting the defendant’s previous record, which included probation for assault with a deadly weapon in 2016 and multiple DUIs.
PD Kurtz argued, “Mr. Dearborn perhaps stupidly was trying to keep up with her, but it was his car and he just had fixed it. And now she’s running around with another boyfriend in his car. He should not have followed but he did follow. There is no evidence though that he did anything but try to cut in front of her.
“This is not a situation which under 245(a)(1) would require the court to find that his actions were likely to have caused great bodily harm or death,” PD Kurtz concluded.
Judge Gerrit W. Wood ruled, “These are the types of facts that point out just how big the discrepancies are between probable cause and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the low standard for preliminary hearing, this court finds sufficient evidence to meet that standard.”
Judge Wood’s ruling also came with an opinion.
“However, the court would volunteer that based on the evidence presented there is no way that these crimes could be established beyond a reasonable doubt…Based on what this court has heard it barely survives preliminary hearing,” he said.
Trial is set to begin Jan. 11, 2021.
Danae Snell is a senior at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice and is from Salinas, California.
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