Jury acquits Modesto City Schools trustee Grenbeaux of assaulting Caltrans worker

03/20/2014 7:12 PM

03/20/2014 11:07 PM

After about 20 minutes of deliberation, a jury on Thursday found Modesto City Schools trustee Steven Grenbeaux not guilty of assaulting a Caltrans worker with his car in 2012.

Grenbeaux faced a misdemeanor charge of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, but the jury also could have considered a lesser crime of assault. He was found not guilty on both counts.

“I’ve said all along that I was innocent, and a jury delivered that vote,” Grenbeaux said after the verdict. “I thought it was a BS case right from the start, and it turned out it was.”

Grenbeaux was not charged until a year after the April 18, 2012, incident and it took another year to be adjudicated, but he said the case did not weigh on him because of his faith in God, which “increased tenfold” during the process.

Grenbeaux testified in his defense Thursday and gave a different account than the one given by the Caltrans worker he was accused of assaulting about what transpired in the construction area on L Street west of Ninth Street in Modesto.

Contrary to the testimony of all three Caltrans workers who testified, Grenbeaux said he was in the middle lane on L Street because there were no signs indicating he couldn’t be in that lane and proceed west across Ninth into the construction area.

The Caltrans workers said all the signs that indicated the center lane on L Street was closed were still posted. Two of the workers said only the concrete barriers that protected the asphalt work had been removed as they neared the end of their workday.

Caltrans supervisor Danny Robles said he heard, then saw, Grenbeaux’s car approaching the site and jumped in front of him to stop the advance.

After a few curse words admittedly exchanged by both, Robles said Grenbeaux edged forward and bumped him at least twice with his car in an apparent effort to get past him.

“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,” Robles testified Wednesday.

Grenbeaux said he never touched Robles. “He gave no indication that I touched him with my car, and he was right in front of me,” he said.

Two character witnesses testified on Grenbeaux’s behalf: Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and Jack Able, husband of Modesto City Schools Superintendent Pam Able.

Both called Grenbeaux a friend and described him as an honest man.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne questioned Christianson about his decision to go to Grenbeaux’s home to inform him there was a warrant for his arrest. Rather than arrest him, the sheriff advised Grenbeaux to get an attorney.

Christianson defended his actions, saying it is a law enforcement officer’s discretion whether to make an arrest in such a scenario.

Referring to Jack Able in respect to Grenbeaux’s position as a school board member, Mayne said in his closing arguments, “His wife is the superintendent, and she probably likes being employed.”

After the verdict, Mayne said, “I respect the jury process. The jury came to the conclusion they believe was right. I’m disappointed, but we have a jury process for a reason.”

Defense attorney Robert Forkner’s response to the verdict: “The fact that the jury deliberated not even for 20 minutes should reflect upon the strength of the district attorney’s case.”

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