Brooks’ defense calls witnesses painting Ash as ‘aggressive’
April 3, 2006
AUBURN ” As the second week of Timothy Brooks’ murder trial got underway Monday, testimony shifted to the alleged victim Robert Ash, who witnesses described as prone to violence.
Defense attorneys called to the stand five witnesses who all claimed to have seen Ash become aggressive in two separate incidents in the past 10 years. In May 2004, Ash punched and kicked a man who insulted his son on a golf course, according to witness testimony. In 1995, Ash threatened a man who had written a resume for his wife, Mimi, a witness testified.
John Chavez, who was an apprentice for Davis Electric in May 2004, said he was at a golf course in Lincoln, Calif., for a work event when Ash punched him in the head and kicked him to the ground in the parking lot at the end of the day. Chavez, who stated he had drank eight to 10 beers that day, said he had cleat marks on his sternum and a “minor concussion” from the incident.
Although Chavez said he could “not recall” making statements or gestures at Mr. Ash or Ash’s teenage son that day, other witnesses testified they had seen Chavez “flip off” Ash and call his son a “fat ass” after Ash asked Chavez and his golf group to be quiet while he putted. Golf pro Andrew Shorts testified that he first thought the fight was a joke between two buddies.
“I saw two guys shoving each other. I heard a guy say ‘You calling my kid fat.’ It didn’t seem real,” Shorts said. “At the time I assumed both guys involved were drunk. I thought it was a mad, drunken rage.”
Kristie Goucher, who was volunteering as a cart girl at the golf course on the day of the incident, testified that she saw Chavez give Ash the finger on the 18th hole. She said she tried to break up the fight in the parking lot when Ash picked her up by the arms and slammed her into a car calling her a “stupid bitch.” Goucher testified that she had bruises on her arms and back in the following days.
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Deputy District Attorney Tracy Lunardi, who is assisting Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran in the case, noted that Goucher did not tell the officer at the scene about Ash picking her up by her arms.
“That guy didn’t do a good report,” Goucher countered, looking annoyed. “When I read the report, I couldn’t believe it. It was wrong.”
During a jury break, the prosecution noted that Goucher had been convicted of embezzling $6,000 from Home Depot, her former employer in Sacramento, and wanted to bring that incident up during cross examination to show she is not a credible witness. However, the felony conviction was cleared from her record in December and the defense noted it was not relevant to the case.
“Nobody but Shorts saw her there. She has given four different statements,” Lunardi said. “Her credibility is clearly an issue.”
“There’s no question about that,” Judge Robert McElhany said.
McElhany denied the prosecution’s request to question Goucher regarding her conviction.
Daniel Greitzer, who has owned a resume writing service in Sacramento for 21 years, testified that in 1995 Ash demanded Greitzer return $100 for errors he made in Mimi Ash’s resume that was sent to a prospective employer. Greitzer noted that he arrived in the parking lot at his office to find Ash waiting for him.
“He was instantly rude, insulting and combative,” said Greitzer, noting that Ash “demanded” the $100 back. “He said he was going to beat me up and trash my office. He said he was woozy. He swiped everything off the top of the desk.”
Greitzer testified that Ash’s swipe also knocked off the top of the desk, a two-inch thick piece of detachable wood that hit him in the knee. He said he was scared and that Ash demanded that Greitzer drive him to the bank to get $100 in cash. After he gave Ash the money, Greitzer called the sheriff’s department and later filed a restraining order, which was denied.
During cross examination, Cattran noted that Greitzer told an officer at the time that Ash was apologetic and offered to clean up the office, which Greitzer said he couldn’t remember. Cattran also made it clear that Ash did not use weapons or his fists to threaten Greitzer.
The defense also called two expert witnesses to corroborate Brooks’ testimony that he was disoriented when he pulled out a fishing knife and stabbed Ash. Brooks had testified earlier that Ash punched him in the left eye and his vision became blurry and could not see Ash.
Dr. Sandra Shefrin, a neurologist from the University of California, San Francisco, said Brooks’ symptoms were consistent with someone getting hit and “the blow to the head was severe enough that he almost blacked out from it.” Shefrin testified that her opinion was based on Brooks’ statement to the police and couldn’t say for sure if she thought Brooks had a black eye in his mug shot that prosecutor James Brazelton showed her during cross examination.
Don Cameron, a former police officer who trains law enforcement officials throughout the state, said after reviewing Ash’s autopsy report, witness interviews, the sheriff’s report, Brooks’ testimony, police interviews with Brooks and interviewing Brooks himself, that the defendant’s use of a knife was a “reasonable use of force in that circumstance.”
“Basically, when you are stunned it is very difficult to defend yourself,” Cameron said. “You’re disoriented.”
Cameron also viewed two mug shot photos of Brooks and said he couldn’t see any sign of an injury and that it looked like how Brooks looked in the courtroom.
Brazelton had both witnesses note that they were both being paid to testify on the stand, with Shefrin being paid $600 an hour and Cameron being paid $375 an hour to testify.
Brooks, 26, is facing an open count of murder in the death of Ash, 48. Brooks stabbed Ash with a fishing knife outside Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City last August following a road rage incident on Highway 89 before Squaw Valley.
Ash, a developer from Newcastle, was working in Truckee at the time of the incident. Brooks and his wife, Susie, were living at his mom’s cabin in Truckee at the time.
Brooks is out on $250,000 bail and living with his parents in the Bay Area.
The defense will continue its case Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. in Department 1.