MODESTO — A felony charge stemming from a confrontation with a Caltrans worker against Modesto City Schools board member Steven Grenbeaux was reduced to a misdemeanor at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
The judge's ruling means a conviction would result in a maximum sentence of one year in jail, rather than four years in prison had the charge remained a felony.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff reduced the charge after defense attorney Robert Forkner argued that Grenbeaux had "a lengthy history of community service." He's a retired teacher, school board member and Vietnam War veteran, and has no criminal history.
Grenbeaux was charged in March in the incident, which occurred last year on L Street between Eighth and Ninth streets.
The criminal complaint claimed Grenbeaux assaulted California Department of Transportation worker Dan Robles. Robles has said his crew had just laid asphalt near the railroad crossing on L Street when Grenbeaux drove his car inside the closed construction area.
Robles testified in Tuesday's hearing that he stood in front of Grenbeaux's car to prevent him from passing and that Grenbeaux "bumped" him twice with his car.
"He was looking at me in kind of a daze, like he was lost," he testified. "As he bumped me, it pushed me back a little bit, and then he bumped me again,"
Robles said he was hit in the shins but not injured.
Forkner pressed Robles about testimony that he was already standing in the street when Grenbeaux circumvented a construction barrier and drove toward him.
"Did you ever tell anyone you jumped in front of him?" Forkner asked, referring to an interview he gave to The Bee in April.
"Yes I did," Robles answered. "I turned around and jumped in front of the vehicle."
Grenbeaux denies hitting Robles with his car but has admitted he made a mistake in driving around the barrier. He said he expected only a traffic ticket from his actions.
"He wants to go to trial as soon as possible to clear his name," Forkner said after the hearing.
Grenbeaux will return to court June 26 at 8:30 a.m. for an arraignment hearing.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.