Preliminary Hearing Focuses on Defendant's Drinking The Night of the Fatal Collision

Rossmoor attorney Robert Wyatt faces gross vehicular manslaughter charge from December 2010 crash.

The defendant showed several indications of intoxication the night his car struck a Rossmoor pedestrian, who later died, according to police testimony Friday in Superior Court.

It was the second day of testimony in the preliminary hearing for Robert Wyatt, 70, a lawyer accused of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI in a Dec. 10, 2010, traffic collision that caused the death of Edward Phillips, 85, of Rossmoor.

The hearing is in Superior Court in Walnut Creek before Judge William M. Kolin.

Walnut Creek Police Officer Bryan Duncan said he first met the defendant in the guardhouse at the entrance to Rossmoor, a retirement community, the evening of Dec. 10, 2010, shortly after the collision on Pine Knoll Drive.

At the time, Duncan said he noticed Wyatt's dark-colored Bentley parked at the guardhouse with a smashed windshield.

"Between the cup of coffee, the fact that it was a serious accident and the fact that he had driven to the guard shack, it struck me as a little strange," said Duncan. "It seemed alcohol was a pertinent question."

Duncan asked him about drinking and Wyatt told him he had had one beer in a dinner at the El Charro restaurant in Lafayette that evening, Duncan testified.

The guardhouse is roughly a mile from the site of the collision on Pine Knoll Drive.

"I detected an odor of alcohol when he was speaking," Duncan said. "It looked like his eyes were red, and somewhat watery … Later, as we talked in more detail and during a field sobriety test, his speech was labored, somewhat slurred. He had a somewhat unsteady gait."

Duncan testified that Wyatt performed "poorly" on a series of sobriety tests that night.


On cross-examination, Duncan said Wyatt was cooperative in complying with sobriety tests. Defense attorney William Gagen asked if it is common for people over the age of 65, particularly those with orthopedic issues, to perform the heel-to-toe walking test that Wyatt did poorly that night, and Duncan agreed.

"A couple times he said he was in a state of shock after what happened," Duncan said. "My impression was that he didn't feel that was unreasonable to drive and report it to the guard shack."

Duncan said Wyatt "said something to the effect of a person had run into the roadway. When he had run into the roadway, he struck him with his car."

Later in the evening at the Walnut Creek police station, Wyatt's blood was drawn and a blood alcohol level of 0.18 was recorded, according to testimony.

Walnut Creek Police Officer Kris Harman testified about interviewing Wyatt that night. Wyatt said the car was going about 25 miles per hour, Harman said.

Wyatt said it was dark and he saw a man moving in "a little jog" coming from the left curb and that he didn't have time to apply the brakes, Harman testified. There were no skid marks, Harman said.

Harman said it was dark and marked on a report that it was cloudy.

Harman said he interviewed local resident Antoinette Stevens, who came out to get something from her car and noticed the body. Stevens said Phillips was vomiting blood, Harman testified.

Stevens ran in her residence to get a blanket for Phillips. Later she took custody of some personal items of the victim that were in the street or on the scene: a cane, shoes, hat and a wrapped object that may have been a ceramic plate, Harman testified.


Credit card

Later that night, Harman went to the El Charro restaurant and the manager said Wyatt's credit card reflected he had one beer with dinner with the check, with the credit card run at 6:08 p.m. 

Duncan testified, from reviewing surveillance video at the Rossmoor guardhouse that night, that Wyatt's Bentley was seen coming into Rossmoor at 6:22 p.m. with no windshield damage and returning at 6:29 p.m. with an indentation in the windshield.

There were also scuff marks on the Bentley's front bumper and headlight, a crack above the grill and a "skin print" on the hood, testified Walnut Creek Police Office Michael Adams.

oleen March 21, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I hope justice is served in this case and not power and money.


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