No bail reduction for Turlock man in road rage case

July 6, 2011 

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt was arrested for murder after a road rage incident near the 1700 block of Paulson Road in Escalon. The assaulted victim was identified as Kenneth Winter, 67. Attack occurred 2/1/10 afternoon.

UNKNOWN — Stanislaus County Sheriff

— A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge on Wednesday declined to reduce the bail amount for a Turlock man charged with second-degree murder despite his defense attorney's argument alleging discrimination against his client.

Michael Joseph Hoyt is accused of beating Hilmar resident Ken Winter to death during a suspected road rage incident last year in Turlock.

In a May preliminary hearing, Judge Ricardo Córdova ruled there was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether Hoyt acted with implied malice when he repeatedly hit the 67-year-old Winter, who later died from his injuries at a hospital.

Hoyt's bail was initially set at $2 million, and Córdova reduced the bail to $1 million at the end of the preliminary hearing.

Defense attorney Frank Carson, however, has argued for bail similar to the amount set for former Stanislaus County sheriff's detective Kari Abbey, who is also charged with second-degree murder.

"So, what's good for the goose is good for the gander," Carson told the judge during a pretrial hearing Wednesday.

Abbey has been free on $300,000 bail since the day she was arrested in early May. She is accused of shooting to death a woman during an off-duty dispute. Abbey also has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy, embezzlement, cultivating marijuana, receiving stolen property and child endangerment.

Carson argued that Hoyt has no prior criminal record and is not accused of committing a crime with a gun. He has also argued that Abbey's charges, if found to be true, are "much more egregious." He has said Hoyt's bail amount is more than twice the bail amount set for Abbey, who was one of the investigators in Winter's death.

Carson was prepared to call Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris to the witness stand. Harris is prosecuting Abbey's case, and he was in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson, who is prosecuting Hoyt's case, argued Harris has no involvement in the Hoyt case and his testimony would be irrelevant.

"(Hoyt's) bail has already been knocked down from $2 million to $1 million," Emerson told the judge.

He also argued the district attorney's office did not set Abbey's bail, and it appears an error occurred in setting Abbey's bail.

Judge Córdova, who also is presiding in Abbey's case, has scheduled an Aug. 10 pretrial hearing to review Abbey's bail.

Carson told the judge he was not suggesting that Abbey's bail should be increased, but that Hoyt deserves equal treatment under the law.

He wanted Harris to testify how Abbey's bail was set and whether he ever objected to the amount. Carson said he is not alleging misconduct, but "there is discrimination going on in this case."

Hoyt's assets are tied-up because of the $1 million bail amount, Carson argued, so Hoyt has not been able to retain Carson as his attorney for the remainder of this case.

Córdova told Carson there wasn't a sufficient reason for Harris to testify or to reduce Hoyt's bail. The judge scheduled Hoyt to return to court Aug. 10 for a pretrial hearing, when the court can assign Hoyt a new attorney if necessary.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209)578-2394.

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