A Hilmar man who caused a train wreck a year ago -- and is held on $10 million bail, the highest amount levied against anyone in Stanislaus County jail -- will go to trial.
Ryan O'Neal Sullivan, 23, failed to resolve his case during a brief hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Monday, so Judge Donald Shaver confirmed his Feb. 26 trial date.
According to court records, Sullivan drove onto the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tracks north of Denair Nov. 24, 2006, then parked his car and fled as a train approached.
During a preliminary hearing in July, a conductor and a locomotive engineer said they think Sullivan was trying to derail the train, because the cars of most people who get stuck on train tracks are broadsided by oncoming trains.
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Sullivan's car was heading in the same direction as the train when it was rear-ended, and railroad employees said they watched Sullivan drive around the crossing arms to get into position.
Authorities found Sullivan a short distance away, clutching registration papers from his vehicle. They believe he was under the influence of a drug, because he was twitching at times, falling asleep at other times.
Clinical psychologist Philip Trompetter evaluated Sullivan for the court, concluding that Sullivan is competent to stand trial although he may have been suffering from a drug-induced mental disorder at the time of the wreck, according to court records.
Trompetter noted that Sullivan has turned down two plea deals, because he wants a spot in a drug rehabilitation program.
"He claims that he did no more than drive under the influence, and after having his car get stuck on railroad tracks, he fled out of fear that he would be discovered under the influence," Trompetter said in a report to the court. "He denies that he had any intent to derail a train."
Sullivan faces life in prison if he is convicted of attempting to derail a train. He also is charged with driving under the influence, hit-and-run, and drug possession.