From Andy Furillo:
Nevada County prosecutors have filed manslaughter charges against a North San Juan man who rammed a suspected pot robber into a tree during a fatal getaway over the weekend, county District Attorney Clifford Newell said today.
Christopher A. Teachout, 32, was charged with voluntary manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter in the death Saturday of Timothy Daniel Fitzpatrick, Newell said.
Newell said his office did not file murder charges against Teachout because they don't believe the evidence indicates the defendant intended to kill Fitzpatrick.
Teachout was scheduled to be arraigned today in Nevada County Superior Court.
The case has generated passionate support for Teachout in the North San Juan community, but Newell said that did not affect his office's filing decision.
"There have been letters, emails and blogs," Newell said. "They're very supportive of him. But violence, either way, and committing crimes isn't going to be tolerated, and neither is vigilantism. Sheriff (Keith) Royal and myself are committed to increase our law enforcement presence up there and that's exactly what we're doing, and we've made great strides over the years.
"But we haven't made much of a dent in the marijuana trade, which comes with its own set of problems, which we're seeing here."
The Nevada County Sheriff's Department said Fitzpatrick, 43, of Elk Grove and an accomplice, Terry A. McLeod, 51, of Sacramento, donned ski masks and police-like uniforms and stormed a ranch house on Tobacco Road outside the North San Juan hamlet.
The two handcuffed four people inside and robbed them of a large quantity of marijuana as well as cameras, computer equipment and cell phones. Authorities said $4,000 in cash was later found in the bags that contained the marijuana, authorities said.
Officials said Teachout freed himself, got in his vehicle and chased the robbers, ramming his vehicle into the getaway truck and prompting its occupants to shoot at him. Teachout then rammed the truck again and sent it out of control into a tree, Sheriff Keith Royal said.
Fitzpatrick died at the scene from injuries suffered in the crash
McLeod, meanwhile, has been charged with murder under California law that allows for that filing for defendants accused of inherently dangerous felonies that result in death. McLeod also has been charged with false imprisonment and two counts of robbery, Newell said.
McLeod's bail has been set at $1 million, Newell said. Teachout has remained in custody in lieu of $80,000 bail. Newell said he expects Teachout's lawyer, Greg Klein, of Nevada City, to argue today that his client be released on his own recognizance.
Dead robbery suspect was an Elk Grove contractor - Jan. 5, 2010
Editorial: Wild West rebounds with a whiff of weed - Jan. 5, 2010
Apparent pot thief dies in Nevada County getaway chase - Jan. 3, 2010