By Ramneet Singh
WOODLAND – Judge Timothy Fall in Yolo County Superior Court this week found in a preliminary hearing there is enough evidence against Michael Stewart for the felony case to go to trial—defense counsel did not cross-examine the three witnesses.
According to the court calendar, Count 1 alleged a driving under the influence/DUI charge with a previous felony, with an enhancement related to blood alcohol level. Count 2 alleged another DUI charge with a previous felony with an enhancement.
Judge Fall ruled there was a “driving under the influence charge in Count 1 and driving at .08 or above in Count 2,” with Counts 3 and 4 related to property damage misdemeanors with Count 4 having a blood alcohol enhancement. Count 5 was a “suspended license” misdemeanor.
Davis Police Officer Christopher Nasca, the first witness called by Deputy District Attorney Aaron Rojas, testified he went to an accident near Arlington Boulevard and Oakenshield Road in the afternoon of March 18, 2021, noting a damaged white Buick on the sidewalk.
Nasca testified there were two people on the scene and determined Stewart was the driver of the Buick. According to him, Stewart told him the car ended in that position because of “‘a car accident,” and he appeared “relaxed, I guess, I don’t necessarily recall his demeanor.”
Nasca later said the Buick had a different license plate and that Stewart eventually fled the area on foot. He said he ran after Stewart and lost him.
Nasca said another person on the scene, a FedEx driver, told the officer “he went to turn left onto Oakenshield when he heard a crash and saw the white Buick…in front of him.”
Nasca told the court there was limited damage and the FedEx driver understood Stewart was the driver, and gave a description, adding Stewart appeared under the influence partly because “‘his nose was running, his eyes were bugged out and bloodshot.’”
Fall overruled an objection by Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt claiming there was a lack of foundation.
Nasca said another witness that was behind the other two vehicles said Stewart also went into a curb and a tree, but he wasn’t sure if the tree was located on private property.
That witness, added Nasca, said the accused asked the witness not to contact law enforcement and that “he just told (the FedEx Driver) that essentially the accident wasn’t his fault and not to worry that he has good insurance.”
Nasca responded that he found marijuana products and extra license plates in Stewart’s car. From a records check, he learned that Stewart “was on court term probation with a suspended license for a DUI.”
There was a hearsay objection with Fall wanting a better foundation, but there were no more questions.
Davis Police Officer Richard Squibbs testified he received information from Nasca and detailed the events leading up to Stewart’s detention.
Squibbs said the description given by Nasca was slightly different from what he observed based on the clothing.
Squibbs said he wanted to get Stewart “to submit peacefully,” noting “when I first contacted him, he kinda had a smirk on his face…his eyes appeared bloodshot and watery,” and that he could “smell” alcohol.
Keith Dougherty of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, formerly of Davis Police, testified he had noted the white Buick at an apartment complex before and asked them about the suspect, due to the description.
Dougherty noted that Stewart refused a field sobriety test, and that he gave him a breathalyzer test and that the results were between 0.15-0.1, about twice the legal limit.
Other than several objections, there was no cross-examination at any point during the testimonies. After Rojas presented the evidence of the rap sheet and the DMV information, PD Van Zandt moved to argue on the property damage accounts.
Van Zandt stated, “I’m asking for the court to hold him to answer to one hit and run property damage, not two counts. I also have an issue with Count enhancement 4(a)” due to uncertainty that it could be attached to that charge.
Fall looked at the enhancement and noted how it did not relate to that section of the code. DDA Rojas acknowledged that it was an error.