MODESTO -- A Beyer High School teacher convicted last month of firing a gun during a dispute with his Oakdale neighbor will have to wait in jail at least another day to see if he gets a new trial.
Authorities say Ralph Bradley Keith, 55, fired two shots during the dispute with Oakdale chiropractor Theodore Jasper Cummins.
Kirk McAllister, Keith's defense attorney, has filed a motion for a new trial. He says the district attorney's office failed to provide a sheriff's report about a 2011 incident involving Cummins and his wife.
That incident, McAllister said, would've damaged Cummins' credibility and swayed the jury, resulting in a more favorable verdict for his client.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito has argued that he didn't intentionally withhold information about the incident, which he said was nothing more than a husband looking for his then-estranged wife.
McAllister on Wednesday was going to call seven witnesses to testify for his motion for a new trial. The judge, however, stopped the hearing after hearing testimony from Cummins' former girlfriend and a friend of Cummins' wife.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira said she wasn't sure the testimony was relevant to the defense's motion. She said Wednesday's hearing wasn't intended for testimony from those with "ill feelings" about Cummins or "dirtying up the victim."
Silveira said she would instead review the defense's motion before proceeding. She has two options:
The judge can decide to reject the motion for a new trial and proceed to sentencing Keith.
The judge can decide to schedule another hearing for more testimony from witnesses before deciding whether Keith deserves a new trial.
The defendant remains in jail as he awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum of four years in prison.
Keith is an instructor of adaptive physical education for special-education students at Modesto's Beyer High, where he's been a teacher for more than 25 years.
Modesto City Schools officials on Wednesday said he has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. Keith had been on paid leave before his conviction.
The motion for a new trial was based on an incident reported Jan. 8, 2011, at a home where Cummins' wife was staying with friends.
Cummins reportedly was seen walking around the home and looking into windows. His wife told authorities she believed her husband took her purse and cell phone from her car.
Cummins told a sheriff's deputy his wife left the purse and phone at a bar. He told the deputy a woman called him and he retrieved the items before trying to return them to his wife.
Cummins was not arrested as a result of this incident. The report never was forwarded to the district attorney's office. Colacito has said his office didn't find the report when searching through records looking into Cummins' background before the trial.
Keith's trial ended Oct. 15. A jury found him guilty of felony negligent discharge of a firearm and misdemeanor resisting arrest for failing to comply with sheriff's deputies when they responded to the report of shots fired Oct. 23, 2009.
Keith and his family had been at odds with Cummins, 44, after Cummins in 2008 bought nearly four acres of vacant land next to the Keith home on Orange Blossom Road. The shooting occurred after the men argued over a fence line near Keith's home.
McAllister argued that his discovery of the 2011 incident involving Cummins and his wife led his investigator to find Bridget Northcutt, Cummins' ex-girlfriend. She testified Wednesday that Cummins became "really upset" when he learned that Keith had reported to authorities Cummins' activities on the property.
That's when Silveira stopped Northcutt's testimony and questioned McAllister's intentions.
McAllister told the judge that Northcutt would have said Cummins was "vindictive" and wanted to do anything to provoke Keith into "taking a swing at him," resulting in Keith's arrest. He told the judge that Northcutt would have testified that Cummins parked his truck near the fence line and watched the Keith family home in an effort to provoke them.
Colacito objected to the testimony from the start, arguing that it was not relevant to the defense's motion for a new trial. He warned the judge that the hearing could turn into a "parade of jilted girlfriends."
Colacito argued that Cummins' former girlfriend did not report his actions to law enforcement officials, which means the prosecution was not responsible for providing that information to the defense.
Silveira told the attorneys that Wednesday's testimony about Cummins' past was presented during the trial. She said the defense had three years before the trial started to find an ex-girlfriend who had bad things to say about Cummins. "I think most of the stones have been turned in this case," Silveira said. "If we entertain this, we would have new trials in every case."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.