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Lives of two men intertwine during trial

Kara Fox
Swift News Service

The lives of two men came together in a tragic way this week as the murder trial of Timothy Brooks got under way in Auburn.

The family of 26-year-old Brooks sat on one side of the Placer County Superior courtroom, while the family of Robert Ash, who was fatally stabbed at the hands of Brooks, sat near the jury box behind the prosecution.

The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran and assisted by Modesto lawyer James Brazelton, who was the lead prosecutor in 2004’s Scott Peterson trial, called 11 witnesses to the stand during the first week of testimony. Those who witnessed the fight between Brooks and Ash on Aug. 17 outside Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City offered the majority of the testimony, concluding with sheriff’s deputies and a Washoe County pathologist.

There were inconsistencies in the testimonies from the witnesses of the fight and from what the deputies recorded on the day of the incident. The prosecution tried to show that Brooks was the aggressor, while the defense maintained that Ash threw the first punch.

The defense began its case Wednesday afternoon by calling three law enforcement officials, but the courtroom became intense Thursday when Brooks was called to the stand.

Brooks, who is from Orinda but was staying at his mom’s cabin in Truckee last summer with his wife, testified that he was “scared” during his fight with Ash that preceded the stabbing and that he regretted the incident. He noted that he had taken his sheathed fishing knife out of his Toyota 4Runner to “slash” a tire on Ash’s black Aston Martin, but felt that he had “lost control” of the situation once it escalated.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s testimony, Judge Robert McElhany ruled that the defense is allowed to bring up “prior acts” that Ash allegedly committed because he believes there is enough evidence for self defense. The prior acts ,which the defense may bring up when the trial resumes April 3, are a “résumé incident,” a fight at a golf course and a “snow plow incident.”

During his opening remarks Monday, Defense Attorney Marcus Topel said he plans to paint Ash as a man with a “dark past” and a “violent past.” However, Mimi Ash maintains that her husband was a “sweetheart” and was not violent.

The defense is also expected to call pathologists and character witnesses to show that their client is a good man.

Brooks, who is charged with an open count of murder, remains free on $250,000 bail and is living with his parents in the Bay Area.

The defense will continue its case at 8:30 a.m. April 3 in Department 1 of the Placer County Superior Court in Auburn.

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