What Are We Doing?
Opposing the hostile takeover of Liberty Apple Valley
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The California Highway Patrol’s felony hit-and-run investigation of a crash involving a vehicle belonging to the Town of Apple Valley’s finance director has ended, according to Rancho Cucamonga CHP Officer Jesus Garcia.
Garcia told the Daily Press on Tuesday the case was transferred to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office for review.
“They will make the final determination on charges,” Garcia said.
District Attorney spokesperson Christopher Lee confirmed the office had received the case, saying it “is currently pending review.”
On Aug. 25, CHP officials said they had identified the driver of a 2011 black Cadillac CTS registered to Assistant Town Manager Marc Puckett, according to a previous Daily Press report. At the time, however, the agency declined to provide the driver’s name as the investigation remained ongoing.
The Cadillac was left at the scene of a late-night crash on southbound Interstate 15 on July 20 after it veered off the freeway and down an embankment approximately 600 feet beyond Foothill Boulevard, according to the CHP.
A CHP officer arrived on scene at 11:55 p.m. — 13 minutes after the initial call for service — and determined the crash to be a hit-and-run incident with minor injuries reported by Lola Espinoza, the driver of a 2011 Toyota Prius.
Espinoza was treated at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario after she complained of pain to her left side, left wrist, neck and back; the Prius sustained extensive rear-end damage and was deemed totaled as a result, according to Espinoza.
Puckett previously said he was “in an accident” — adding that he left his Cadillac in search of someone with a cellphone because his was dead — but he adamantly denied hitting another vehicle, going so far as to wonder whether he had been tailed by “some Ranchos person” prior to the incident.
When asked whether he believed someone from Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley would follow him, Puckett replied, “Yes I do.”
Liberty purchased Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company two years ago and, in doing so, inherited a longstanding battle for ownership of the water system that town officials say stemmed from years of rate increases that left customers paying substantially higher water rates.
Currently, that battle is locked in eminent-domain litigation with a trial setting conference scheduled for Oct. 20, court records show.
Initially, town officials failed to respond to a question about Puckett’s comments; however, Interim Town Manager Lori Lamson rectified that after a second inquiry was sent by this newspaper.
“The town is not privy to any information suggesting that Liberty Utilities had any involvement in this matter,” she said via email.
Greg Sorensen, president of the water company’s western region, previously called Puckett’s statement “false and disrespectful” to Liberty employees.
Meanwhile, the identity of the Cadillac’s driver was not included in an otherwise detailed report of the crash, and Officer Garcia has not responded to a request for the identity.
For his part, Lee said he had no details related to the driver’s identity.
“Even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to confirm anything as long as it is pending (review by the DA’s office),” he said.
CHP officials previously said felony hit-and-run charges could be recommended in the matter, but noted that it’s not imminent.
Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press