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Rossmoor Attorney's Preliminary Hearing Set For September

Vehicular manslaughter case of Robert Wyatt will focus on what happened on the night of Dec. 10.

A preliminary hearing will be held Sept. 8 for a Rossmoor attorney charged in a fatal accident that killed another resident in the retirement community.

Robert Wyatt, 70, has pleaded not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and driving with an alcohol level of .15 or higher.

Wyatt was ordered last week to return to court for the hearing that will determine whether he will face trial on those charges.

Investigators say Wyatt was driving his Bentley on Pine Knoll Road about 6:38 p.m. Dec. 10 when his vehicle struck and killed 85-year-old Edward Phillips.

Authorities say Wyatt's blood-alcohol level was .18 at the time. There were no eyewitnesses.

Wyatt, an environmental law attorney with a San Francisco firm, is being represented by prominent East Bay defense attorney Bill Gagen.

Gagen said the focus of the case will be on what happened on that dark street that evening.

He said for someone to be convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, there must be proof they were negligent regardless of whether they were driving drunk.

"This case presents some unique issues for the prosecution," said Gagen.

Some Rossmoor residents have accused Wyatt of speeding and leaving the scene of the accident.

Gagen said those accusations aren't true.

He said Wyatt was driving 25 miles per hour with his headlights on at the time of the accident. Wyatt and Phillips were on a street that is dark and has rolling hills that obscure visibility.

He added that Wyatt drove to the Rossmoor guard shack after the accident to summon help. He waited there until police arrived.

Gagen said it's unknown where Phillips was when he was struck by Wyatt's car. It's also uncertain, he said, why the victim was in a street without a crosswalk.

"This is a very sad case," said Gagen. "A nice gentlemen lost his life in a tragic accident, but that's what it was — an accident."

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