Tahoe City hit-and-run hearing continued | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City hit-and-run hearing continued

A Placer County prosecutor and the lawyer representing a Tahoe City man facing murder charges in an alleged hit-and-run, drunk-driving collision last summer, say they are close to an agreement that may keep the case from going to trial.

The negotiations over the fate of Joseph Santen, accused of killing 27-year-old cyclist Brad Reilly, were disclosed Tuesday at a preliminary hearing in Tahoe City, which was continued until June.

Santen, 36, sat nervously beside his lawyer Jordan Morgenstern Tuesday, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and white tennis shoes with a freshly-shaven face after being driven in from the Placer County jail in Auburn.

Despite the presence of five potential witnesses from the Placer Sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol, Superior Court Commissioner Trilla Bahrke quickly adjourned the hearing to allow the plea negotiations to continue.

Speaking on behalf of Santen, Morgenstern told Bahrke the possible resolution is “not an iron-clad deal.”

The witnesses ready to testify at Tuesday’s hearing will be asked to return in June, the commissioner said.

Placer Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran said he’s listening to any deals offered by Morgenstern.

“I’m never close-minded about a potential resolution of a case,” Cattran said. “Our office will do whatever we believe is in the interest of justice.”

Cattran gave no details of the possible deal.

“We’re continuing to negotiate a possible disposition, the details of which I’m not at liberty to talk about,” Cattran said. “… I think we’re getting closer to an agreement, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Placer County sheriff’s detectives allege that Santen hit Brad Reilly, 27, while driving his Jeep July 16 under the influence of alcohol on Highway 28 near Lake Forest in Tahoe City.

Reilly died from his injuries days later in a Reno hospital.

Santen is charged with second-degree homicide, gross vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving in the death of Reilly, who was riding his bike at the time of the collision.

He is also charged with misdemeanor offenses ” driving with a suspended or revoked license, and driving while intoxicated with blood-alcohol content greater than .08.

If convicted on a second-degree murder charge, Santen could serve 15 years to life in a California prison, Cattran said.

Santen pleaded not guilty to the charges July 27.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Santen at his Tahoe City residence almost three hours after the 11 p.m. collision, Cattran said in a previous interview. Investigating officers said Santen appeared to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of his arrest, and had three previous convictions for driving under the influence, Cattran said.

The prosecutor would not comment on the blood-alcohol content of either Santen or Reilly at the time of the collision.

Santen will not be present for the conference set for 10 a.m. on May 14, but will be available for the 11 a.m. hearing on June 13.

He remains in custody in the Placer County jail in Auburn.

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