A judge on Thursday postponed a hearing that would have determined whether a man deserves a new trial after he was convicted of firing a gun during a dispute with his Oakdale neighbor.
The judge, however, gave Ralph Bradley Keith a chance to post $25,000 bail and remain free from custody until the court decides Jan. 29 whether to grant his motion for a new trial.
Keith, 55, was expected to post a bail bond and be released from custody by the end of the day, but he was still at the Stanislaus County Jail as of Thursday afternoon. The judge had remanded him into custody without bail shortly after the verdict was announced Oct. 15.
A jury found Keith 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.
Authorities say the defendant fired two shots during the dispute with Oakdale chiropractor Theodore Jasper Cummins.
"Mr. Keith is a good person who made a terrible mistake and is now facing the consequences," Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira said in court Thursday.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito objected to granting Keith's bail, arguing that he can't be trusted to comply with the court's orders.
The judge granted a restraining order against Keith to stay away from Cummins and not try to communicate with him. She ordered him not to photograph Cummins.
Keith can be searched by authorities at any time, and he can't possess a gun or ammunition while free on bail. He was ordered not to contact any juror or witness involved in the trial.
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.
Kirk McAllister, Keith's attorney, filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the district attorney's office failed to provide a sheriff's report about a January 2011 incident involving Cummins and his wife.
Prosecutors argued that they didn't find the sheriff's report while looking into Cummins' background before the trial. Colacito also has said the reported incident was nothing more than a husband looking for his then-estranged wife. Cummins was not arrested.
The 2011 incident, McAllister argued in court Wednesday, led the defense to find more information that would have damaged Cummins' credibility and swayed the jury in his client's favor.
Silveira abruptly stopped Wednesday's hearing after hearing testimony from Bridget Northcutt, Cummins' former girlfriend. McAllister told the judge that Northcutt would have testified that Cummins was "vindictive" and wanted to do anything to provoke Keith, resulting in Keith's arrest.
Thursday, the judge told Keith that the information from Northcutt was not included in the defense's motion for a new trial, so nobody was adequately prepared to continue.
She said in court that Keith likely will appeal the verdict, so she wants to have the case thoroughly litigated before it reaches the appellate court. That's why the judge postponed the hearing until next month.
Keith faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison. He is on unpaid administrative leave from his job as an instructor of adaptive physical education for special education students at Beyer High School in Modesto.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.