Matthew Pumar, the driver accused of hitting and killing Mountain View resident William Ware last June, will stand trial on the charge of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, a judge ruled Thursday, Jan. 3, at the conclusion of the case's preliminary hearing.
After hearing multiple witnesses called by Deputy District Attorney Duffy Magilligan, Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett ruled that sufficient evidence had been presented to warrant a jury trial.
During the hearing's closing arguments, Pumar's defense lawyer, Dennis Smith, argued that the 22-year-old Mountain View resident had not been negligent in the June 21 crash, in which he allegedly ran a red light at the intersection of California Street and Escuela Avenue. Smith pointed to evidence presented earlier in the day by a traffic accident expert who had estimated that Pumar was traveling about 46 mph when he struck Ware.
Magilligan argued, however, that before Ware was struck, Pumar had already driven up over a curb, had two wheels ripped from his vehicle, and plowed through a traffic sign post -- suggesting that his vehicle would necessarily have slowed significantly before hitting Ware. The posted speed limit at the intersection is 35 mph.
Several of Ware's family members attending the hearing seemed emotionally drained after the judge's ruling. But Ware's brother, Jim, said he was pleased to see that the case would go to trial. "It was relieving to hear that the judge saw the charges the way the DA did," he said.
Pumar and his family had no comment for the media. They also appeared emotionally distraught. At the conclusion of an earlier session of the hearing, Smith told the Voice that the "whole (Pumar) family has expressed to me the greatest sympathy for Mr. Ware. It's been a tragedy for everybody."
Ware was a well-known Mountain View resident who was waiting for a bus in the 1800 block of California Street when he was killed.
Pumar remained on the scene and cooperated with police and investigators. He was arrested on July 10 after the investigation was completed. He immediately posted $100,000 bail and was released.
The court will take up the case again on Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 84 at the Palo Alto Courthouse.
Read an earlier story about the preliminary hearing's first session here.