November 04, 2011

tribune

By: Nick Wilson

A mistrial was declared this week in the case against a Newport Beach man accused of crashing a vehicle and killing a passenger at the Hearst Ranch airstrip in 2009, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Judge Michael Duffy declared the mistrial Monday after jury selection had begun in the case against 41-year-old Kurt Naegele.

Defense attorneys Mark Geragos and Eugene Harris announced their intention to call an expert witness to testify that, according to his opinion, Naegele wasn't the actual driver of the Range Rover that rolled over Sept. 18, 2009, at the Hearst Ranch airstrip.

But prosecutor Matthew Kerrigan hadn't received a 30-day notice required by law from the opposition prior to calling the witness, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Naegele has pleaded not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter charges and two allegations relating to driving under the influence and causing bodily injury.

The trial before Duffy is now expected to start in late January or early February.

The crash killed 38-year-old passenger Darren William Dahlman of Pasadena and injured passengers Christopher H. Pennell and Ryan Robert Doheny, both of Los Angeles.

CHP officials estimated, based on evidence at the crash scene, that the vehicle was traveling about 105 mph when the wreck occurred, according to a search warrant filed by investigator Dan Bresnahan, who worked for the prosecution.

Doheny and Naegele both estimated the speed at 35 mph, however. Doheny told investigators that Naegele was behind the wheel, the search warrant stated.

Naegele was the registered owner of the Range Rover, which was found several hundred feet off the runway down a steep embankment after the 11 p.m. crash. Naegele's blood-alcohol level was about 0.16 percent, according to the warrant - twice the legal limit.

"Naegele suffered serious injury and had to be extricated from behind the steering wheel," Bresnahan wrote in the warrant.

In a motion filed last month to impeach Doheny's testimony for lack of credibility, Geragos and Harris wrote "the defense theory of the case is that Mr. Doheny also moved Mr. Naegele's body into the driver's position, to hide the fact that he (Mr. Doheny) had been driving the vehicle at the time of the collision."

The defense argued that a past allegation of Doheny fleeing the scene of an accident with passengers, in which he was driving drunk, would affect his credibility in this case. They cited a docket that showed he was convicted of drunken driving and a misdemeanor concealed-weapons charge.

All four of the men involved in the Hearst Ranch crash were drinking, the defense argued in the motion.

That defense motion was denied by Duffy, however, according to the prosecution.

The case is scheduled for a trial-setting conference Nov. 17.

To read other articles featuring the attorneys of Geragos & Geragos, please click here .