Jury tips defendant’s third strike
Possibility of a third strike evaporated Wednesday when a jury in El Dorado County Superior Court found a South Shore man not guilty of battery with serious bodily injury.
Police arrested 29-year-old Chris Adler in August because he allegedly sucker-punched a man, breaking his nose. The victim ignored a subpoena requesting that he testify.
The crime is considered a strike. Adler’s first two strikes came with a 1992 conviction for robbery and 1996 conviction for burglary, both in El Dorado County. If the jury had found the 29-year-old guilty, he could have been sentenced to 35 years to life in prison.
“We didn’t think prosecution proved it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said the jury foreperson, who asked to remain anonymous. “We couldn’t tell if it was in self-defense or premeditated.”
Adler testified that he punched the man in self-defense because the man had jumped him the night before. He said prior to his punch, he and the man were arguing. “He called me a rat. So I called him a child molester and he got mad,” he said.
Testimony also revealed that just prior to his arrest he gave a South Lake Tahoe Police officer a false name.
“I was scared,” Adler said. “My parole officer told me to have no police contact whatsoever.”
El Dorado Deputy District Attorney Anthony Sears, who prosecuted the case, said he disagrees with the verdict, but accepts it.
“It’s within the province of the jury,” Sears said. “No prosecutors or defense attorneys are ever right 100 percent of the time.
“It was handled as a three strikes case. In the opinion of our office, no one got physically hurt in the first two cases; someone did get hurt in this case and that’s why it was handled this way.”
Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said even if Adler had been found guilty of the battery charge, it wouldn’t have meant an automatic 35 years in prison. He said the judge has an option to review prior strikes or downgrade charges.
“(The judge) has a very wide area of discretion,” Uthe said. “And his decision can be reviewed at appellate level if either side believes it would be appropriate.”
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.