Assault trial begins for Modesto City Schools board member

03/19/2014 8:12 PM

03/19/2014 8:13 PM

A trial started Wednesday afternoon for Modesto City Schools board member Steven Grenbeaux, who is accused of entering a construction zone and bumping a Caltrans worker with his car in 2012.

Originally facing a felony, Grenbeaux’s charge of assault likely to cause great bodily injury was reduced to a misdemeanor after a preliminary hearing last year.

The California Department of Transportation worker, Danny Robles, testified Wednesday that he and his crew were laying asphalt near the railroad tracks that cross L Street west of Ninth Street on April 18, 2012, when the incident occurred.

Robles said he heard Grenbeaux’s car before seeing it. He said it appeared Grenbeaux made a right turn from the Ninth Street southbound lane onto L, when the school board member entered the closed construction area.

“I came out with my hands up to stop the car from approaching, because I didn’t know where my crew was,” Robles said on the witness stand.

He said Grenbeaux looked angry and gestured that he wanted to get through. The Caltrans worker said he told Grenbeaux the road would open in about 15 minutes and eventually told him to “get the f--- out.”

After that, Robles said, Grenbeaux’s car moved forward.

“He bonked his car against me. He was bumping me with his car to try to get through,” Robles testified. “He bumped me at least twice. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt me, but it was hard enough to get my attention, like a bully trying to push you around.”

Robert Forkner, Grenbeaux’s defense attorney, told the jury his client was not coming from Ninth Street but was in the middle lane on westbound L Street and was trapped between cars on either side. He had no option but to proceed west, Forkner said.

Caltrans witnesses said all the road closure signs still were up, but Forkner pointed out that the cement barriers that were once on L Street had been removed.

During his opening statement, Forkner emphasized to the jury that Robles, by his own admission, jumped in front of Grenbeaux’s car and said he didn’t think Grenbeaux intended to hurt him.

Robles testified that he was trying to protect his crew. “I believe he didn’t realize he was hitting me with his car,” Robles testified. “He was trying to get by.”

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne also called to the witness stand two other Caltrans workers, who testified that they saw Grenbeaux’s car move forward toward Robles.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday afternoon. Forkner is expected to start calling his witnesses to testify when the trial resumes this morning.

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