Man accused of eluding pursuit was wanted on 2 earlier cases in Nevada County
John Wenzel Niece, the man accused of eluding capture after a six-hour pursuit Jan. 10, was wanted not just on allegations of assault with a deadly weapon involving a Yuba County sheriff’s deputy.
He also had an outstanding warrant stemming from a Grass Valley arrest in early 2018, in which he was charged with resisting arrest and providing a false ID. He failed to appear for that court case in May 2018 and a $10,000 warrant was issued, court records state.
Niece appeared in Nevada County Superior Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing into the evidence against him in both that 2018 resisting arrest case, and a 2019 felony evasion case. The Jan. 10 pursuit, and Niece’s subsequent arrest two days later, currently is being prosecuted as a violation of post-release community supervision following a case in Shasta County.
Grass Valley Police Sgt. Clint Bates testified regarding the arrest of Niece on Jan. 24, 2018.
Bates testified that he was on patrol around 3 a.m. when he saw a man who standing in the back of a business on Nevada City Highway. He said that as he approached he saw the man run into a maintenance shed and close the door behind him, noting a large amount of property strewn on the ground near the shed.
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Bates testified he initially made contact with Thomas Leal, who said he was living in the shed. Leal then called another man to the door, and that person initially identified himself as John Christian. Authorities later identified him as Niece.
The man had no ID and the name “John Christian” did not come up with a match when Bates ran it through records.
After Officer Dennis Grube arrived on the scene, Bates said he grabbed Niece’s arm to detain him and Niece tried to pull away and punched him in the nose. Niece tried again but missed.
“He then attempted to flee,” Bates said.
The two officers tried to take Niece to the ground and the fight escalated. Niece was kicking, throwing elbows and trying to get away, Bates said.
Even after Grube punched Niece two to four times in the face, he still was resistant. After warning him, Bates deployed pepper spray, he added.
Niece’s attorney, Lawrence Montgomery, argued Tuesday that Niece was detained even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing. But Deputy District Attorney Patrick Beauchamp told Judge Scott Thomsen the circumstances, including the possibility of a burglary in progress, are what led Bates to try to detain Niece.
“People don’t normally live in maintenance sheds,” he said.
After hearing the evidence, Thomson held Niece on two counts of resisting arrest and one count of providing false information.
Assault, failed pursuit in November
Then it was Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Moe’s turn to testify regarding his attempt to detain Niece on Nov. 16.
Earlier that evening, a Yuba County sheriff’s deputy on patrol at Bullards Bar approached a Tahoe parked in a day-use area. The driver started the vehicle and accelerated, pinning the deputy briefly against his patrol vehicle — leading to the Yuba County assault with a deadly weapon accusation. The deputy was uninjured and tried to pursue the Tahoe, losing it near North San Juan, a Yuba County sheriff’s spokeswoman has said.
Moe testified that he received a be-on-the-lookout alert around 7:20 p.m., and saw a vehicle matching the description pass him on Oak Tree Road around 8:15 p.m.
Moe said he turned around to catch up, but the driver failed to stop, leading to a chase at speeds ranging from 65 to 85 mph. At times the driver crossed over double yellow lines into the opposing lane. Moe lost the driver after he turned onto Grizzly Hill Road.
An arrest warrant for felony evasion in Nevada County was issued Jan. 7, court records show.
According to Moe, the Yuba County deputy identified Niece from a photo. Moe testified that after Niece’s arrest on Jan. 12, the pink slip for the Tahoe was found in his backpack.
Montgomery argued the hour gap between the be-on-the-lookout alert and Moe’s sighting of the Tahoe meant that Niece could not be tied to the Yuba County assault. But Thomsen disagreed, holding Niece on the felony evasion charge.
Niece is set to appear Feb. 14 for arraignment on the 2018 and 2019 cases and for the January violation. No new complaint has been filed for one additional charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest. Niece remained Tuesday in custody without bail.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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