By Ariel Abdallah
WOODLAND – Road rage—and the results thereof—was in full display here Monday in Yolo County Superior Court, as Judge David Rosenberg presided over the preliminary hearing of Samuel Davidson in Department 14.
Davidson was originally charged with a felony for an assault with bodily injury—a misdemeanor was later added Monday—and is represented by private counsel Jeffrey Raven. Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor was the prosecutor.
The case involves a motorcyclist, also the chief witness who alleges he was hit by Davidson on Aug. 29, 2019, after he was cut off on I-80 westbound, leading up to the dangerous confrontation.
The first witness—the motorcyclist and victim—claimed that Davidson hit him with his car. He claims that he was going about 60 mph on the freeway when he was cut off by a small car traveling about 60-65 mph. The driver, Davidson, did not turn on his signal when switching from lane 2 to lane 1, causing the victim to slam on his breaks so abruptly that he thought he would fall off his bike.
After moving to lane 1, the victim said that Davidson traveled about five cars ahead of him when he moved back to lane 2. The witness/victim then claimed that he caught up with Davidson, so that they were side by side with four to five feet between them.
The witness/victim said he gestured to his eyes and then down to his own mirror as if to tell the driver “watch and look.” When he made the motion, he removed his right hand from the accelerator, momentarily. He admitted that he was angry, but did not yell or say anything. However, he claimed that he never touched Davidson’s vehicle or saw Davidson make any gestures back.
The victim then claimed that within one to two seconds of the driver noticing his gesture, defendant Davidson swerved his car toward him and hit him. His knee was injured and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. It took two to three months for his road rash to heal.
After the accident, the victim owed thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical bills and still owed money on his damaged motorcycle that was not paid off. However, he did have insurance for both. He met with an attorney and filed for a civil case against Davidson, but his lawyer dropped the case since Davidson did not have insurance.
During his testimony, the victim was extremely unfocused and vague. During Raven’s cross-examination, Judge Rosenberg even said that “it’s really important that you listen to the question and answer the question. You’re going off in left field again.” Raven also had to ask questions repeatedly and in several different ways because of the nature of the witness’s answers.
The second witness called was an observer of the collision between what he recalls a motorcycle and a small car like a Prius. He noticed that the motorcyclist, witness 1, was motioning apologetically to two cars to his right and left. He said the motorcyclist/victim was splitting lanes 1 and 2, which the first witness did not disclose when asked.
Then, the observer says he watched the motorcyclist catch up to a car making unaggressive gestures as if to say, “What the heck?” He confirmed that the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet and was unlikely to be saying things to the driver. At this point, witness 2 expected a confrontation.
After briefly losing sight of the motorcyclist and the defendant’s car the second witness saw both moving south on a westbound freeway. He was shocked to see them simultaneously moving toward the center divider. According to the second witness, the motorcycle hit the center divider and flew to the other side.
He then stopped to help the victim since defendant Davidson did not. Witness 2 said that motorcyclist was very shaken up and told him, “That car hit me.” The second witness saw that Davidson pulled over about one mile ahead.
Officer (first name unintelligible on Zoom) Cornonel said the initial statement of the motorcyclist/victim was taken as he was being readied to be taken to UC Davis Medical Center. After getting the second witness’s statement and booking Davidson, he recorded the second statement at the hospital.
The statements by the victim were given in both English and Spanish—officer Cornonel is fluent in both languages. The second statement was more detailed, since he had more time to ask questions and the motorcyclist did not seem impaired.
Officer Cornonel recalls the motorcyclist stating that he pointed to defendant Davidson’s mirror, but did not record that he ever touched the vehicle. The officer did, however, note in the second statement that the victim/motorcyclist noted Davidson looked directly at him, pointed, laughed and then swerved his vehicle to the left, directly toward the motorcycle.
When Judge Rosenberg asked Zambor and Raven for their arguments and thoughts, DDA Zambor amended the charges to add misdemeanor of reckless driving under VC § 23103. The judge accepted the amendment.
Raven was conflicted in his decision to argue or submit, stating, “It’s a difficult case. Obviously, there is a low standard of proof at the preliminary hearing and that if it was an intentional act it’s really hard to argue with a straight face that this would be misdemeanor conduct. That really this goes to the intent and whether this was an accident, mistake, or an intentional act.”
Judge Rosenberg let him know that he noticed the inconsistency of the motorcyclist’s statements, but Raven still decided to submit. Judge Rosenberg also tried to schedule an arraignment for Nov. 24. Zambor objected, asking for further discussion, under the premise that she thinks the issue can be resolved.
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