Elderly man accused of DUI fails to show at court hearing

INDIO, Calif. - An 83-year-old Palm Desert man who crashed his car into a fence at an elementary school, where a 10-year-old student was struck by flying
debris and ended up losing a leg, failed to show up for a court hearing Tuesday because he was confused about the date, according to his attorney.

Tuesday's felony settlement conference and an Aug. 6 preliminary hearing
date were both set at Malcolm Ross Paterson's June 25 arraignment.

``All he remembered was the sixth (of August). He was supposed to be
here today, but I explained to the D.A. and judge that he was confused,''
defense attorney Geoffrey Yaryan told City News Service. ``They set ... two
dates, so that's what confused him.''

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald Johnson issued a $90,000
bench warrant, but agreed to hold it until Aug. 6, and will dismiss it if the
defendant shows up as scheduled. Johnson also reset the felony settlement
conference for the same date.

Paterson is charged with one felony count of driving under the influence
causing injury, along with a sentence-enhancing allegation of great bodily
injury, for the Oct. 23 crash that injured Lincoln Elementary School student
Adrian Grajeda, who turned 11 this month.

Paterson remains free on his own recognizance, with certain conditions. He cannot drive, drink alcohol or go to bars or liquor stores, and he must
submit to chemical tests requested by law enforcement, Riverside County
District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall said.

Paterson was driving a Chevrolet Cruze south on Portola Avenue, approaching a red light at Magnesia Falls Drive, about 9:50 a.m., when he
``mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake pedal when
approaching traffic stopped at an intersection,'' then ``pressed harder on the accelerator without realizing his mistake,'' according to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant.

Paterson's car collided with another vehicle, veered onto a sidewalk,
crashed into a traffic signal and finally struck the steel perimeter fence of
Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on Rutledge Way in Palm Desert.

Debris from the crash struck Adrian, who was airlifted to a hospital, where his right leg was amputated. Other students were outside at the time, but
no one else was hurt.

Paterson stayed at the scene, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Though a blood test showed Paterson's blood-alcohol level was 0.04 percent, below the legal limit of 0.08 percent,  his ``actions throughout the
events of the collision, combined with his measured BAC, led me to believe that alcohol contributed to a mental impairment, making him unable to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner,'' sheriff's Deputy John Cleary wrote in the declaration.

In April, Adrian's mother filed a negligence lawsuit against Paterson, alleging that he knew or should have known that he was ``unfit and/or
incompetent to operate the subject vehicle given he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.'' The suit asks for unspecified damages.

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